Johnson is urging people to remain vigilant when meeting with others and to carry on wearing masks in enclosed and crowded places.
His chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, told a webinar hosted by London’s Science Museum late Thursday that the U.K. is “not out of the woods yet.”
“I don’t think we should underestimate the fact that we could get into trouble again surprisingly fast,” Whitty said.
More cases will inevitably lead to more people requiring hospital attention even though the vaccine rollout has helped build a wall of immunity around those deemed to be the most vulnerable to disease. More than two-thirds of British adults have received both doses of a vaccine, and almost 88% have had one dose.
Friday’s government data showed 3,964 people hospitalized with COVID-19, the most since late March. Though the number has gone up steadily in recent weeks, it remains far lower than at the height of the second wave in January, when hospitals had around 40,000 COVID-19 patients admitted.
Alongside the increase in hospitalizations, daily virus-related deaths have risen to levels not seen since March. Another 49 virus-related deaths were recorded Friday, taking the U.K.’s total to 128,642, the seventh-highest in the world.
Government medical adviser Whitty warned that the number of people in hospitals with COVID-19 is doubling about every three weeks and could reach “quite scary numbers” if the current trend continues.