Health

UK’s Covid cases fall 13% in a week to 32,651 (even with two days of figures from Scotland)

Britain’s daily Covid cases dropped today, official figures showed in yet more proof that the return of schools has failed to trigger a fresh wave.

Department of Health statistics showed another 32,651 infections were recorded in the past 24 hours, down 13 per cent from last Friday.

Today’s figures included two days worth of data for Scotland, which did not report any cases yesterday because of a ‘technical issue’. But despite the bumper reporting cases continued to trend downwards.

It marks the ninth day in a row that the UK’s cases have fallen week-on-week, with the surge in infections expected once classrooms reopened in England, Wales and Northern Ireland having failed to materialise.

Latest hospitalisations showed 909 people were admitted to wards suffering from the virus on September 13, the latest available. This was down 14 per cent from the same time the previous week. But there were also 178 deaths, up by a fifth on last Friday.

Both hospital admission and death figures lag weeks behind cases because it takes time for an infection to trigger serious illness.

Separate figures today offered more proof that the return of millions of children to schools has yet to spark any uptick in cases.  

The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) surveillance report estimated there were 697,100 people infected on any given day across England in the seven days to September 11, down 8 per cent on the previous week.

Most schools in England went back from the summer break on September 1, meaning today’s data includes the first full week of the new school term.

There had been widespread concerns that England would see a meteoric rise in infections like Scotland did when classes north of the border resumed in mid-August. Covid cases there trebled to record highs in the following fortnight which put pressure on health officials to finally approve vaccines for 12 to 15-year-olds this week.

The latest estimates, based on random swabbing of 100,000 households in England, suggest one in 80 people were carrying the virus on any given day last week. 

UK's Covid cases fall 13% in a week to 32,651 (even with two days of figures from Scotland)

UK's Covid cases fall 13% in a week to 32,651 (even with two days of figures from Scotland)

UK's Covid cases fall 13% in a week to 32,651 (even with two days of figures from Scotland)

ENGLAND: The above graph shows Covid cases in England by date reported. It reveals that cases in the country are trending downwards as the predicted spike in infections due to the reopening of schools fails to materialise

ENGLAND: The above graph shows Covid cases in England by date reported. It reveals that cases in the country are trending downwards as the predicted spike in infections due to the reopening of schools fails to materialise

SCOTLAND: The above graph shows Covid cases in Scotland by date reported. The country reported no Covid cases yesterday because of a technical issue

SCOTLAND: The above graph shows Covid cases in Scotland by date reported. The country reported no Covid cases yesterday because of a technical issue

WALES: The above graph shows Covid cases in Wales by date reported. It reveals they are trending downwards

WALES: The above graph shows Covid cases in Wales by date reported. It reveals they are trending downwards

NORTHERN IRELAND: The above graph shows Covid cases in Northern Ireland by date reported. They are trending down

NORTHERN IRELAND: The above graph shows Covid cases in Northern Ireland by date reported. They are trending down

The Office for National Statistics' weekly surveillance report estimated there were 697,100 infections in England in the seven days to September 11, down 8 per cent on the previous week

The Office for National Statistics’ weekly surveillance report estimated there were 697,100 infections in England in the seven days to September 11, down 8 per cent on the previous week

Meanwhile, the Government's scientific advisory group said that England's R rate remained flat in the past week at around 1, but could be as low as 0.9 or as high as 1.1

Meanwhile, the Government’s scientific advisory group said that England’s R rate remained flat in the past week at around 1, but could be as low as 0.9 or as high as 1.1

UK's Covid cases fall 13% in a week to 32,651 (even with two days of figures from Scotland)

The UK is currently recording 1,000 Covid hospitalisations per day, the bulk of which are occurring in England (shown). This is up from around 750 from 'Freedom Day' on July 19, when all legal curbs were lifted in England

The UK is currently recording 1,000 Covid hospitalisations per day, the bulk of which are occurring in England (shown). This is up from around 750 from ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19, when all legal curbs were lifted in England

Deaths have remained low despite high levels of transmission thanks to the rollout of the vaccines

Deaths have remained low despite high levels of transmission thanks to the rollout of the vaccines

DoH data showed England recorded 23,265 cases today, which was down 13 per cent on the same time the previous week.

In Scotland they dropped by 19 per cent week-on-week, despite the country today reporting two days worth of infections. Scottish officials posted 5,529 cases today, compared to 6,815 last Friday.

In Northern Ireland infections dipped by 26 per cent in a week after 1,239 were recorded. Wales was the only area to see its infections rise, after they went up six per cent in a week when 2,618 were recorded.

Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, said: ‘It does look like those strongly expressed views that we would see a surge in infections after schools went back has not turned out to be the case.’

Meanwhile, the Government’s top scientists said England’s R rate remained flat in the past week at around 1, but could be as low as 0.9 or as high as 1.1. 

The R, or reproduction, rate is the average number of people each Covid patient goes on to infect and it needs to be below 1 for there to be a consistent decline in the epidemic. However, it is a lagging indicator, and represents the situation the country found itself in three weeks ago.

Separate data from Public Health England yesterday found that more than nine in 10 of England’s local authorities saw their outbreaks shrink in the first week of schools returning. 

At the peak of the second wave in early January, around one in 50 people in England were estimated to have the coronavirus. 

The percentage of people testing positive is estimated to have increased in the North West and decreased in the West Midlands and the East of England, the ONS said. The trend for all other regions is uncertain, with outbreaks believed to have flatlined in the most recent week.

North East England and Yorkshire and the Humber had the highest proportion of people of any region likely to test positive for coronavirus in the week to September 11 — around one in 60. The East had the lowest estimate, around one in 120.

Speaking about the anticipated school surge last night, Professor Hunter said: ‘Today was the first day we would have expected to see any clear impact of schools opening on daily reports of Covid case numbers in England.

‘We started seeing case reports below the same day in the previous week on September 9, about eight days after most pupils went back to school at the point when any impact may have been seen.’

He added: ‘In an endemic infection, like Covid has now become, infections reach an equilibrium point where the proportion of the population becoming susceptible balances the likelihood of transmission and of course a lot of people have developed some degree of immunity in recent months as a result of either immunisation or infection.

‘Also although case numbers seem to have started falling in all age groups, age specific data is always reported somewhat later and it will be later next week before we can know for certain what the trend in each age group really is.

‘Nevertheless it does look like those strongly expressed views that we would see a surge in infections after schools went back has not turned out to be the case.

UK's Covid cases fall 13% in a week to 32,651 (even with two days of figures from Scotland)

UK's Covid cases fall 13% in a week to 32,651 (even with two days of figures from Scotland)

UK's Covid cases fall 13% in a week to 32,651 (even with two days of figures from Scotland)

Cabinet minister George Eustice says there will be ‘another full lockdown’ if a vaccine-dodging coronavirus variant emerges 

The emergence of a vaccine-dodging coronavirus variant will force the Government to impose ‘another full lockdown‘, a Cabinet minister said today. 

Environment Secretary George Eustice let slip that a national shutdown is in the Government’s toolbox to prevent the spread of the disease should the virus manage to ‘get around’ the jabs. 

Mr Eustice insisted another lockdown ‘is not what we want’ but his confirmation that it is on the table is likely to spark Tory fury, with many MPs vehemently against the potential return of nationwide draconian curbs. 

His comments come just days after Boris Johnson unveiled his Winter Plan for stopping the spread of the disease in the coming months. 

The document contained no specific mention of a potential lockdown but said ‘more harmful economic and social restrictions would only be considered as a last resort’ if the NHS was at risk of being ‘overwhelmed’. 

Mr Johnson repeatedly said he wanted the UK’s exit from the last lockdown to be ‘irreversible’. 

Mr Eustice was grilled this morning on Sky News about expected changes to the Government’s international travel rules. 

The minister would not be drawn on specifics as he said the Cabinet sub-committee in charge of the issue is expected to make its decisions later today. 

Told that the travel industry is at a critical point and that now is the time to change the traffic light system, Mr Eustice replied: ‘It has been a very, very difficult time for the travel industry, we absolutely recognise that.

‘That is why we have done all we can to have those easements in place, reduce the restrictions as quickly as we can.

‘But arguably the biggest threat to the travel industry is that we do get another variant that manages to get around the vaccine, that the vaccine can’t deal with, then we are into another full lockdown and that is not what we want.

‘That is why we have taken this cautiously, step by step, because we want each step we take to be irreversible.’   

‘How long and low this decline in cases and hospital admissions will go is not clear. 

‘I suspect case numbers will level off at some point and there is still the possibility that cases could increase again as we move through autumn, though I doubt anywhere near as high as we have seen in the past or as has been predicted by some.’

In Wales, around one in 60 people are estimated to have had Covid in the week to September 11, up from one in 65 in the previous week and the highest level since the week to December 23, 2020. 

In Northern Ireland, the latest estimate is one in 75, down from one in 60 in the previous week.

For Scotland, the ONS estimates that around one in 45 people had Covid in the week to September 11, the second week in a row it has been at the highest level since estimates began for Scotland in October 2020.

The ONS said that while the percentage of people testing positive had increased slightly (from 2.2 per cent to 2.3 per cent) in the week ending September 11, the rate of increase had slowed. All figures are for people in private households.

It has been suggested that high antibody levels in youngsters may be keeping the virus at bay. Nearly nine in 10 people in the UK aged 16 to 24 have Covid antibodies, according to official estimates. 

Rates of the virus-fighting proteins will also start rising quickly in 12 to 15-year-olds next week, when the jab rollout opens to them for the first time. 

The ONS, which carries out blood tests on youngsters across the UK’s four nations, found between 87 and 89 per cent of them had antibodies that help fight the virus. 

The presence of coronavirus antibodies suggests someone has been infected in the past or has been vaccinated, and therefore has some immunity. Children under 16 are not routinely tested for antibodies. 

PHE data revealed Covid cases continued to grow in just 11 parts of the country between September 6 and 12, in more evidence that schools have not triggered a surge.

Newcastle upon Tyne saw the biggest surge in the country, with cases rising by 11.1 per cent. It was followed by Northumberland (10.3 per cent) and Leicester (9.5 per cent).

Local outbreaks also pushed case numbers up in the rest of Leicestershire (5 per cent), Oldham (4.6 per cent), Blackpool (3.1 per cent) and Coventry (1.4 per cent).

Meanwhile, tiny increases in infection rates were spotted in Middlesbrough (0.9 per cent), Redcar and Cleveland (0.8 per cent), Southend-on-Sea (0.8 per cent) and Calderdale (0.4 per cent).

At the other end of the scale, data showed infections more than halved in West Berkshire (down 54.2 per cent) and Gloucestershire (down 52.7 per cent).

Cases also fell in South Gloucestershire (down 49.5 per cent), Bristol (down 49.4 per cent) and Swindon (down 48.9 per cent).  

PHE data showed cases fell at a national level and in all nine regions of the country, in a marked change from last week when increased slightly in every area apart from the South West.

The North-East had the highest rate, with 370 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to September 12.

Meanwhile, they were the lowest in London, where 212 per 100,000 people tested positive last week.

But with large numbers returning to offices last week and Transport for London experiencing its busiest day since before the pandemic, cases in the capital could rise in the coming weeks, experts fear.   

A QUARTER of ‘Covid inpatients’ in England are primarily being treated for a different illness or injury, official data shows

By Connor Boyd Assistant Health Editor for MailOnline

Nearly a quarter of Covid inpatients in England are actually in hospital for a different reason, according to official figures. 

Health service statistics show there were 6,146 NHS beds taken up by people who were coronavirus positive on September 14, the latest date data is available for.

But just 4,721 patients (77 per cent) were primarily being treated for the virus, with the remaining 1,425 receiving care for other illnesses or injuries. They could include patients who’ve had a fall or even new mothers who tested positive after giving birth.

In NHS hospitals in the Midlands, around a third of Covid patients were mainly being treated for another reason on September 14.

Separate NHS figures suggest as many as half of daily hospitalisations only test positive after being admitted for a separate condition.

Hospital numbers have become the key metric for ministers and their scientific advisers, now that vaccines have taken the emphasis away from infection numbers.

Boris Johnson has said lockdown curbs may have to be reintroduced if Covid hospital numbers rise sharply as part of his winter blueprint to tackle the virus, which could see masks and working from home mandated again.  

But he did not put a firm figure on the threshold that would trigger the return of restrictions when he announced the contingency plans earlier this week.

The latest figures suggest the standard Covid hospital numbers have become a less reliable way of gauging the outbreak and NHS pressure.  

Health service statistics show there were 6,146 NHS beds taken up by people who were coronavirus positive on September 14, the latest date with data. But just 4,721 patients (77 per cent) were primarily being treated for the virus, with the remaining 1,425 receiving care for other illnesses or injuries

Health service statistics show there were 6,146 NHS beds taken up by people who were coronavirus positive on September 14, the latest date with data. But just 4,721 patients (77 per cent) were primarily being treated for the virus, with the remaining 1,425 receiving care for other illnesses or injuries

UK's Covid cases fall 13% in a week to 32,651 (even with two days of figures from Scotland)

Broken down by region, the Midlands saw the highest proportion of Covid patients being treated for a different illness on September 14.

Covid was the primary diagnosis in just 883 out of 1,228 (68 per cent) patients who were in a hospital bed and positive.

It was followed by the North West, where nearly 29 per cent of Covid patients were actually being treated for a separate issue.

NHS carried out 1MILLION fewer emergency procedures last year because of Covid,

More than a million emergency hospital admissions were ‘lost’ to the coronavirus pandemic, according to official data. 

There were 5.45million emergency procedures carried out across all NHS England services in the 12 months to March, down 16 per cent on the 6.5m the previous year. 

The NHS Digital statistics, published on Thursday, include admissions for accident and emergency, mental health, maternity and even dental patients.   

Figures also show there were 3.2m fewer elective surgeries in the same period, with 5.6m coming in for care during the pandemic compared to 8.8m pre-Covid.

Patients were left struggling to access care through repeated lockdowns as the health service turned its attention to Covid.

Many were also reluctant to come forward for fear of being a burden on the NHS or catching the virus.    

There is mounting pressure on the NHS to start chopping down record waiting lists that have amassed during the pandemic, now that Covid vaccines have largely broken the link between infections and severe illness.  

At the other end of the scale, Covid was the primary reason for 83 per cent of patients in London and the South West. 

Health officials say those classed as ‘primarily non-Covid’ could be suffering from an illness that is exacerbated because of the virus. 

The NHS only started to differentiate between the types of patients in hospital in June to get a better idea of the scale of the outbreak.

It was instructed to do so by the then-newly-appointed Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who is much more of a ‘hawk’ than his predecessor Matt Hancock. 

Hospitals were told to give a breakdown of those who went to hospital primarily because of Covid and are suffering from severe symptoms.

Those who test positive but are in hospital for another reason are referred to as ‘incidental cases’ and are picked up because of routine swabbing in the NHS.

Since the figures began to be published on June 18, the proportion of incidental cases has varied between a fifth and a quarter.

These patients appear to make up a bigger proportion of the daily hospital admission numbers. 

Leaked figures in July suggested more than half (56 per cent) of these were patients who only tested positive after admission.

This trend is largely consistent with separate data published every fortnight by Public Health England, which shows four in 10 Covid admissions in patients with the Delta variant are ‘incidental’. 

At best, experts say the data suggests that hospital figures reported on the Government’s Covid dashboard are ‘misleading’.

But at worst, according to Reading University’s Dr Simon Clarke, they may signal that the virus is still spreading on NHS wards, putting the most vulnerable at risk.

The microbiologist told MailOnline: ‘A quarter of potentially incidental cases still far too many people, that’s still a huge problem.

‘You’ve got people in hospital who have just had surgery and whose immune systems have taken a hit, if they catch Covid on ward they could be very ill.’

Dr Clarke said the findings do not mean the NHS is under any less pressure, which some critics have argued. 

Public Health England's fortnightly update on coronavirus strains circulating around the country showed 7,285 people had spent at least one night in hospital with the Delta variant of the virus by August 15. But it admitted as many as 3,154 (43 per cent) had likely come to A&E for 'a diagnosis unrelated to Covid' and tested positive later through routine swabbing

Public Health England’s fortnightly update on coronavirus strains circulating around the country showed 7,285 people had spent at least one night in hospital with the Delta variant of the virus by August 15. But it admitted as many as 3,154 (43 per cent) had likely come to A&E for ‘a diagnosis unrelated to Covid’ and tested positive later through routine swabbing

SAGE’s gloomy models return: Government scientists warn Covid hospital admissions may breach 6,000 a day by mid-October 

The Government’s scientific advisory group warned there could be more than 6,000 daily Covid hospital admissions by this time next month, as it called for ministers to be prepared to roll back ‘light’ lockdown curbs. 

Modelling by SAGE — now infamous for repeatedly overegging the UK’s epidemic — found that hospital numbers could eclipse the peak of previous waves if the R rate were to rise to 1.5 in the coming weeks.

While the group admitted the jabs have tamed the virus, it claimed there was ‘potential for another large wave of hospitalisations’ due to waning immunity, schools returning from summer and workers going back to offices. 

SAGE’s most optimistic scenario still forecasts about 2,000 daily hospital admissions — double the amount occurring now — which it warned could lead to a ‘difficult few months’ for the NHS.  

The panel has recommended a ‘relatively light’ set of restrictions are brought back at the first sign of an uptick in hospital numbers, including masks, working from home and a return to isolating all close contacts of Covid cases. 

It said that going hard and early with light restrictions this autumn could avoid the need for more drastic measures later on in winter. The advice was revealed in a batch of scientific papers made public today but submitted to Government last week.

SAGE’s models did not factor in the effect of vaccinating healthy 12 to 15-year-olds or giving booster doses to 30 million vulnerable Britons, two policies that were only announced in the last two days. 

But the guidance will have been factored into Boris Johnson’s winter Covid plan, which gives ministers the power to reinstate a catalogue of social restrictions — even a ‘last resort’ lockdown.

But he admitted they could make the Covid outbreak itself look more severe than reality.

‘If you look at the numbers [reported by the Government each day] and think they are all people going into hospital because of Covid, then clearly that’s not true.

‘But just because somebody comes in with a broken ankle and has asymptomatic Covid does not mean they are not difficult to manage.

‘In some ways it could create even greater pressure because they are less obvious so they need to be identified and separated from other patients.

‘But of course we wouldn’t have this problem if infection numbers in society weren’t so high.’

The UK is currently recording 1,000 Covid hospitalisations per day, up from around 750 from ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19, when all legal curbs were lifted in England.

But the Government’s scientific advisory group has warned there could be 7,000 daily admissions by this time next month. 

Modelling by SAGE — now infamous for repeatedly overegging the UK’s epidemic — found that hospital numbers could eclipse the peak of previous waves if the R rate were to rise to 1.5 in the coming weeks.

While the group admitted the jabs have tamed the virus, it claimed there was ‘potential for another large wave of hospitalisations’ due to waning immunity, schools returning from summer and workers going back to offices. 

SAGE’s most optimistic scenario still forecasts about 2,000 daily hospital admissions — double the amount occurring now — which it warned could lead to a ‘difficult few months’ for the NHS.  

The panel has recommended a ‘relatively light’ set of restrictions are brought back at the first sign of an uptick in hospital numbers, including masks, working from home and a return to isolating all close contacts of Covid cases. 

It said that going hard and early with light restrictions this autumn could avoid the need for more drastic measures later on in winter. The advice was revealed in a batch of scientific papers made public today but submitted to Government last week.

SAGE’s models did not factor in the effect of vaccinating healthy 12 to 15-year-olds or giving booster doses to 30 million vulnerable Britons, two policies that were only announced this week. 

But the guidance will have been factored into Boris Johnson’s winter Covid plan, which gives ministers the power to reinstate a catalogue of social restrictions — even a ‘last resort’ lockdown.

SAGE models have previously been ridiculed for exaggerating the UK’s epidemic, most recently estimating there would be 100,000 Covid cases per day over the summer.

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