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Coronavirus: UK’s infections are on ‘steady rise’ but not out of control, app data suggests

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coronavirus uks infections are on steady rise but not out of control app data suggests

Coronavirus is not out of control in the UK, according to scientists who estimate there are now around 44,000 new infections happening each day.

King’s College London researchers behind the Covid Symptom Study predict cases were last week 20 per cent higher than a week before. The previous seven days had seen a rise of 31 per cent.

Based on reports from a million app users and more than 12,000 test results, the estimates last week aligned roughly with figures from the Office for National Statistics, which are considered to be the most accurate and will update today.

Professor Tim Spector, the epidemiologist behind the King’s study, said the spread of Covid-19 in the UK currently appears ‘steady’ and may even be slowing in Scotland.

The team estimated that Britain’s cases are doubling once a month and that the R rate was 1.1 in the week ending October 25.

Their update comes after a shocking mass-testing study published yesterday estimated that 96,000 people may be catching the disease every day.

But this came alongside a conflicting forecast which put the figure at closer to 56,000, sparking confusion about how severe the UK’s second wave really is. 

And Department of Health testing has picked up an average of just 22,125 cases per day for the last week, with 23,065 diagnosed yesterday. 

Looking back on the numbers of people dying can also give an impression of how widely Covid-19 is spreading – Government officials estimate 0.5 per cent of coronavirus patients die, which suggests the average 154 people who died each day in the week up to October 23 was the result of 31,000 new daily infections at the start of the month.

Professor Spector said the King’s College team, working with health-tech company ZOE, wanted to ‘reassure’ people that the situation did not seem to be as bad as ‘other surveys’ had suggested. 

In other coronavirus news:

  • West Yorkshire will enter the strictest Tier Three lockdown from Sunday, joining the regions around Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham;
  • London could face Tier Three rules within weeks, according to sources close to the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan. Mr Khan yesterday repeated his calls for a national shutdown and said tougher measures need to be taken;
  • A Government source has reportedly told Boris Johnson that all hospital beds in England could be full by December 17 if no more action is taken against coronavirus. Tougher measures continue to be put in place, however, and Nightingale hospitals remain on standby across the country;
  • A study has suggested a variant strain of Covid-19, named 20A.EU1, has been behind 90 per cent of infections in England, and has been traced back to a farm in northern Spain in June.
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Data from King's College London's Covid Symptom Study app shows that coronavirus cases in the UK have soared to more than 40,000 per day after a lull in the summer but the team behind it maintain that they 'have not spiralled out of control'

Data from King’s College London’s Covid Symptom Study app shows that coronavirus cases in the UK have soared to more than 40,000 per day after a lull in the summer but the team behind it maintain that they ‘have not spiralled out of control’

‘While cases are still rising across the UK, we want to reassure people that cases have not spiralled out of control, as has been recently reported from other surveys,’ Professor Spector said today.

‘We are still seeing a steady rise nationally, doubling every four weeks, with the possible exception of Scotland which may be showing signs of a slow down. 

‘With a million people reporting weekly, we have the largest national survey and our estimates are in line with the ONS survey.

‘Data on covid-19 can be confusing for the public and we can’t rely simply on confirmed cases or daily deaths, without putting them into context. 

‘Hospital admissions are rising as expected, but deaths are still average for the season. As we become citizen scientists it’s important to look at multiple sources to get a broader view.’

ARE CASES REALLY GOING UP SO QUICKLY?

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An array of statistics last week suggested cases were no longer growing as quick as they once were.

Office for National Statistics, which tracks the size of the Covid-19 outbreak through thousands of random swab tests, revealed that the number of people catching the coronavirus in England alone every day stood at 35,200 last week.

Despite being a 26 per cent rise on its previous estimate and double that of a fortnight ago, top scientists insisted the figure was ‘hopeful’ because the speed of growth has clearly dropped. 

Cases doubled between October 2 and 9, then jumped by two thirds (62 per cent) the following week to 27,900 per day, according to the ONS data, which is considered the most reliable indicator of the true size of the crisis. 

The data echoed comments by the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, who said last week there were signs local lockdowns were starting to work and that curves were beginning to flatten in some areas.

Separate Department of Health data showed the number of daily cases by specimen date — the date the test was taken — had jumped by just 9 per cent from October 5 to October 12, rising from 15,310 to 16,683 in a week. 

But then cases appeared to take off again, increasing by 23.5 per cent from 17,589 on October 15 to 21,717 a week later. 

Since then, the outbreak appears to have slowed again, with the speed of growth in the most recent three days being 1.6 per cent, compared to around 7.7 per cent over the previous three days. 

Testing has stayed at a consistent level over the past two weeks, suggesting the current swab programme may be spotting as many Covid-19 cases as it can — with a test positivity rate above five per cent. 

The UK’s testing system will always miss asymptomatic and mild cases of the virus, which make up the vast majority of infections. Those who have no symptoms have no reason to request a test.

The current scheme is only swabbing 300,000 people a day — despite warnings it would need to be ramped up for the winter to cope with the surge in people who have coughs and colds.

As a result of the lack of capacity, NHS and social care workers are being prioritised, as are people with severe symptoms and those approached by Test and Trace. 

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The Department of Health yesterday announced a further 23,065 positive coronavirus tests from across the UK, up 8.6 per cent on last Thursday.

Numbers of people being diagnosed with the illness have soared since the start of September to a current daily average of 22,125.

But testing only picks up a fraction of the true number of infections because many people don’t get tested, don’t get ill with the virus or get a wrong negative result.

So studies done by scientists and mathematicians are the most accurate pictures of how many people are truly getting infected with coronavirus, whether it makes them ill or not.

King’s’ study is based on around one million people with the Covid Symptom Study app reporting whether they feel ill and confirming test results when they have them. It estimates there are 43,569 new infections per day in the UK and 34,628 in England.

The Office for National Statistics, which last week estimated there were 35,200 new infections per day in mid-October, uses mass testing of a random set of the population to calculate what percentage of people are Covid-positive and how this changes over time.

The Government-funded Imperial College London study, REACT-1, yesterday estimated there were 96,000 new infections per day. This study is also based on mass population testing and used 85,000 tests from between October 16 and 25.

Meanwhile a ‘Nowcast’ study by researchers at the University of Cambridge yesterday put the figure at 55,600 per day, based on the numbers of people who are dying of the disease and data showing how much people are travelling and interacting.

Looking back on the numbers of people dying of Covid-19 can give a fairly reliable estimate of infections but there are lags in the data because it usually takes more than two weeks for someone to die after catching Covid-19.

Officials believe that around 0.5 per cent of people who catch coronavirus die with it – one in every 200 people who gets infected. 

Therefore, the average 154 people who died each day in the UK in the week leading up to October 23 – the most recent reliable data – suggest that 31,000 people were getting infected each day two to three weeks earlier.

This may not, however, take into account differences in the age of people catching the virus. The infection fatality rate may now be lower than it was in the spring because there are more cases spreading among young people.

The second wave was triggered by the virus spreading among teenagers and people in their 20s in early September, when universities and schools went back, and those groups are far less likely to die, meaning there may be a higher ratio of infections to deaths and the 31,000-per-day could be an underestimate. 

Data in the Covid Symptom Study estimated that the North West and North East and Yorkshire accounted for half of all of England’s new infections each day, at 8,725 and 8,446 per day, respectively. 

A further 7,404 of the daily infections were springing up in the Midlands, it suggested, followed by 4,977 per day in London. Lowest was the East of England, with 2,278 per day, and the South West with 2,607.

Scotland accounted for 4,674 new cases per day, the study predicted, followed by 3,397 in Wales and 1,230 in Northern Ireland. 

England and Scotland had predicted R rates of 1.1, while it was 1.2 in Wales.

The Government is still refusing calls for a second national lockdown for Britain, fearing economic devastation if people are forced to stay home again, and pursuing its whack-a-mole local lockdown strategy.

Sixteen more areas were pushed into Tier Two ‘high risk’ restrictions yesterday, including parts of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Telford, and Luton and Oxford. 

And Leeds and West Yorkshire are now set to enter Tier Three – the highest level of restrictions – alongside the Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham regions.

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The North of England and the Midlands remain worst affected by Covid-19, the King's team predicts, with per-person infection rates also high in Scotland, Wales, London and university cities in the South of England including Bristol, Bournemouth, Exeter and Brighton

The North of England and the Midlands remain worst affected by Covid-19, the King’s team predicts, with per-person infection rates also high in Scotland, Wales, London and university cities in the South of England including Bristol, Bournemouth, Exeter and Brighton

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday: ‘We continue to see a worrying rise in cases right across the country, and it is clear decisive action is needed.

‘We have agreed with local leaders to move more areas into the High Local Covid Alert Level this week.

‘These restrictions are challenging for us all, but it is only by working together and following the rules that we will bring down the rates of infection. 

‘A failure to act now will only lead to longer disruption and greater economic damage. I want to thank everyone who is playing their part to break the chains of transmission across the country. We will beat this virus, but we must stick together as we enter the winter months.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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MPs accuse tech giants of fuelling an ‘e-waste tsunami’ by designing products with short shelf life

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mps accuse tech giants of fuelling an e waste tsunami by designing products with short shelf life

Apple and other tech giants have been accused of fuelling an ‘e-waste tsunami’ by designing products with a short shelf life.

MPs say the companies are contributing to 155,000 tons of waste electricals being sent to landfill or burned every year.

In a report, they say tech firms had been found to glue and solder together components making any repairs by consumers impossible.

Today, MPs are calling for a change in the law to stop manufacturers from deliberately making products that have ‘planned obsolescence’ in an attempt to stop a tech waste tsunami

Today, MPs are calling for a change in the law to stop manufacturers from deliberately making products that have ‘planned obsolescence’ in an attempt to stop a tech waste tsunami

Today, MPs are calling for a change in the law to stop manufacturers from deliberately making products that have ‘planned obsolescence’ in an attempt to stop a tech waste tsunami

And repair charges offered by firms ‘can be so expensive it is more economical to replace the item completely,’ MPs said.

The environmental audit committee, which has previously challenged fast fashion retailers for generating huge amounts of waste, said the UN has warned of an ‘e-waste tsunami’.

It said it is time for ministers to support a new culture of reusing and repairing items. This could be done through enshrining the right to have items repaired in law and a cut in VAT on repair services, as is the case in many EU countries.

Bricks and mortar electrical stores are legally required to offer collection and recycling of tech products. Currys PC World recycles over 65,000 tons of waste electronics each year. MPs say tech giants should be required to offer the same level of recycling.

An Apple spokesman said: ‘We were disappointed with the report, which does not reflect our efforts to conserve resources and protect the planet. 

‘There are more options for customers to trade in, recycle and get safe, quality repairs than ever before.’

Pictured: Shoppers queue to get into an apple store in London earlier in November

Pictured: Shoppers queue to get into an apple store in London earlier in November

Pictured: Shoppers queue to get into an apple store in London earlier in November

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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High blood pressure in your 40s and 50s significantly affects the brain in later life

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high blood pressure in your 40s and 50s significantly affects the brain in later life

High blood pressure in your 40s and 50s significantly affects the brain in later life, researchers have found. 

A study based on brain scans from 37,000 people reveals that raised blood pressure in middle age – even at levels that wouldn’t usually require drug treatment – leads to extensive damage to the ‘white matter’ of the brain.

This can lead to dementia, stroke, physical disabilities and depression in later life.

Alarmingly, the Oxford University researchers found even small increases in blood pressure – at levels that would usually not be considered a problem – can make a major difference to the brain.

Blood pressure is expressed as two numbers, systolic – the upper number – and diastolic – the lower one.

Currently people in the UK are considered to have hypertension if blood pressure above 140/90.

The researchers found for every 10-point increase in systolic blood pressure above this level, the damage to white matter increased by about 13 per cent.

A study by University of Oxford researchers based on brain scans from 37,000 people revealed that raised blood pressure in middle age – even at levels that wouldn’t usually require drug treatment – leads to extensive damage to the ‘white matter’ of the brain (stock image)

A study by University of Oxford researchers based on brain scans from 37,000 people revealed that raised blood pressure in middle age – even at levels that wouldn’t usually require drug treatment – leads to extensive damage to the ‘white matter’ of the brain (stock image)

A study by University of Oxford researchers based on brain scans from 37,000 people revealed that raised blood pressure in middle age – even at levels that wouldn’t usually require drug treatment – leads to extensive damage to the ‘white matter’ of the brain (stock image)

And for every 5-point increase in diastolic blood pressure, damage increased by 11 per cent.

And the scientists also found some evidence of damage at lower blood pressure – with some people displaying brain damage at systolic levels above 120 and diastolic levels above 70.

The findings, published in the European Heart Journal, come from a study of 37,041 participants aged 40 to 69 years old, enrolled in the UK Biobank project.

The researchers examined MRI brain scans to look for ‘white matter hyperintensities’ – signs of damage to the small blood vessels in the brain.

This damage is linked to severe problems in old age, including general decline in thinking abilities and the development of dementia and mental health issues.

Researcher Dr Karolina Wartolowska, of Oxford’s Centre for Prevention of Stroke and Dementia, said: ‘Not all people develop these changes as they age, but they are present in more than 50 per cent of patients over the age of 65 and most people over the age of 80 even without high blood pressure, but it is more likely to develop with higher blood pressure and more likely to become severe.’

Among the top 10 per cent of people with the greatest brain damage, 24 per cent of this damange could be attributed to having a systolic blood pressure above 120, and 7 per cent could be attributed to having diastolic blood pressure above 70.

Dr Wartolowska said: ‘We made two important findings. Firstly, the study showed that diastolic blood pressure in people in their 40s and 50s is associated with more extensive brain damage years later.

‘This means that it is not just the systolic blood pressure, the first, higher number, but the diastolic blood pressure, the second, lower number, that is important to prevent brain tissue damage.

‘Many people may think of hypertension and stroke as diseases of older people, but our results suggest that if we would like to keep a healthy brain well into our 60s and 70s, we may have to make sure our blood pressure, including the diastolic blood pressure, stays within a healthy range when we are in our 40s and 50s.’

She added: ‘The second important finding is that any increase in blood pressure beyond the normal range is associated with a higher amount of white matter hyperintensities.

‘This suggests that even slightly elevated blood pressure before it meets the criteria for treating hypertension has a damaging effect on brain tissue.

Alarmingly, the Oxford University researchers found even small increases in blood pressure - at levels that would usually not be considered a problem - can make a major difference to the brain

Alarmingly, the Oxford University researchers found even small increases in blood pressure - at levels that would usually not be considered a problem - can make a major difference to the brain

Alarmingly, the Oxford University researchers found even small increases in blood pressure – at levels that would usually not be considered a problem – can make a major difference to the brain

‘Our results suggest that to ensure the best prevention of white matter hyperintensities in later life, control of diastolic blood pressure, in particular, may be required in early midlife, even for diastolic blood pressure below 90, whilst control of systolic blood pressure may be more important in late life.

‘The long time interval between the effects of blood pressure in midlife and the harms in late life emphasises how important it is to control blood pressure long-term, and that research has to adapt to consider the very long-term effects of often asymptomatic problems in midlife.’

Dr Richard Oakley, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, which part-funded the study, said: ‘High blood pressure doesn’t just affect our hearts, but our heads too.

‘Although this study didn’t look for a specific link between blood pressure and dementia, it’s an important step forward in understanding how high blood pressure is linked to changes in the brain that can increase our risk of dementia.

‘With few dementia treatments available and researchers still searching for a cure, it’s vital we do what we can to keep our minds healthy, as well as our bodies.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Britain has ’50/50 chance’ of becoming the first to have an approved coronavirus vaccine

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britain has 50 50 chance of becoming the first to have an approved coronavirus vaccine

Britain has a ’50/50 chance’ of being the first country in the world to approve a Covid vaccine, it has been revealed.

A decision could come as early as next week, with one source suggesting Britain could be the first to be awarded a license to start offering vaccinations.

NHS workers will be the first to be protected against the deadly virus before care home workers and other vulnerable Brits.

A Government source told The Sun it is ‘very likely’ Pfizer will be the earliest vaccine licensed, but ‘it’s looking pretty close’. 

Ministers are also being prepped to launch a TV and radio campaign to encourage Brits to get the vaccination as early as next week.         

A decision could come as early as next week, with one source suggesting Britain could be the first to be awarded a license to start offering vaccinations. Pictured, Chancellor Rishi Sunak during a visit to Imperial Clinic Research Facility at Hammersmith Hospital in London

A decision could come as early as next week, with one source suggesting Britain could be the first to be awarded a license to start offering vaccinations. Pictured, Chancellor Rishi Sunak during a visit to Imperial Clinic Research Facility at Hammersmith Hospital in London

A decision could come as early as next week, with one source suggesting Britain could be the first to be awarded a license to start offering vaccinations. Pictured, Chancellor Rishi Sunak during a visit to Imperial Clinic Research Facility at Hammersmith Hospital in London

Final safety data for the Pfizer jab, which is 95 per cent effective, was given to regulators on Monday.

And officials are quietly confident the UK can get approval ahead of the US and the EU.  

The Pfizer jab has to be stored at -70C and can only be thawed in batches of 1,000 which could become a nightmare for the NHS.

It was previously reported Britain could have 19million doses of Oxford and AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.

President of AstraZeneca, Tom Keith-Roach said, on top of the four million doses on standby for the UK, a further 15million could be ready to roll out by the end of next month. 

The vaccine is expected to cost just £2 per dose and can be stored in ordinary equipment, unlike other jabs made by Pfizer and Moderna that showed similarly promising results last week but need to be kept in ultra-cold temperatures using expensive equipment.

Gina Plata-Nino receives an injection from RN Bethany Trainor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA on September 4. Plato-Nino is taking part in a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine

Gina Plata-Nino receives an injection from RN Bethany Trainor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA on September 4. Plato-Nino is taking part in a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine

Gina Plata-Nino receives an injection from RN Bethany Trainor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA on September 4. Plato-Nino is taking part in a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine

It’s also a fraction of the price, with Pfizer’s costing around £15 per dose and Moderna’s priced at about £26 a shot. 

Oxford’s trials found the jab has a nine in ten chance of working when administered as a half dose first and then a full dose a month later. Efficacy drops to 62 per cent when someone is given two full doses a month apart.

More than 24,000 volunteers were involved in Oxford’s phase three trials in the UK and Brazil, half of whom were given the vaccine and the rest were given a fake jab. 

There were only 30 cases of Covid-19 in people given the vaccine compared to 101 in the placebo group. None of the participants who took the vaccine fell seriously ill.

The result also showed lower levels of asymptomatic infection in the smaller dose group which ‘means we might be able to halt the virus in its tracks,’ according to Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group. 

The Pfizer jab has to be stored at -70C and can only be thawed in batches of 1,000 which could become a nightmare for the NHS (file image)

The Pfizer jab has to be stored at -70C and can only be thawed in batches of 1,000 which could become a nightmare for the NHS (file image)

The Pfizer jab has to be stored at -70C and can only be thawed in batches of 1,000 which could become a nightmare for the NHS (file image)

He said today was ‘a very exciting day’ and claimed his team’s jab would play a key part ‘in getting the world back to normal’.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also hailed the results, saying millions of doses will be ready to go by the end of December. 

He told the BBC: ‘It’s really encouraging news… nobody who took it ended up in hospital or had serious conditions. We hope to be able to start vaccinating next month. The bulk of the vaccine roll out programme will be in January, February, March. And we hope that sometime after Easter things will be able to start to get back to normal.’

Oxford’s jab is viewed as Britain’s best chance of mass-inoculation of the population by the end of spring because Boris Johnson has pre-ordered 100million doses, enough to vaccinate 50million people. 

The UK already has 4million ready to go as soon as the jab is approved, which could see 2million people inoculated before the end of 2020.  

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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