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NHS ‘is heading back to normal’ after UK’s COVID-19 death toll fell by almost 70% in last fortnight

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nhs is heading back to normal after uks covid 19 death toll fell by almost 70 in last fortnight

Falling coronavirus cases and low death rates mean the NHS is close to being able to resume its normal services, experts say.

Daily deaths from the virus remain low, with 38 recorded in the UK yesterday, bringing the total to 41,736 as of 5pm on Sunday.

The declining numbers of cases meant that, as of yesterday, only 390 critical care beds were occupied by coronavirus patients across England.

Daily deaths from coronavirus remain low in the UK, with just 38 recorded on Monday meaning the total sits at 41,736

Daily deaths from coronavirus remain low in the UK, with just 38 recorded on Monday meaning the total sits at 41,736

Daily deaths from coronavirus remain low in the UK, with just 38 recorded on Monday meaning the total sits at 41,736

The falling rate of deaths and total cases could mean the NHS is able to return to normal service, according to experts

The falling rate of deaths and total cases could mean the NHS is able to return to normal service, according to experts

The falling rate of deaths and total cases could mean the NHS is able to return to normal service, according to experts

A study by Imperial College London calculates that all routine surgeries could be reintroduced once critical care occupancy by Covid-19 patients falls to 320.

It suggests the NHS could start to clear its waiting list – which stands at more than four million – within weeks.

The Imperial team cautioned that it would take a while to clear the backlog of operations cancelled in March, April and May.

And they said the NHS will need to keep in place some of the emergency measures used during the crisis in order to clear the backlog – such as using private hospitals, keeping on retired staff who returned to work and employing final-year medical and nursing students.

But this aside, hospitals are close to being in a position to resume full services, they said. 

It would mean hospitals (pictured) are close to providing full services once again, but they will keep emergency measures in place

It would mean hospitals (pictured) are close to providing full services once again, but they will keep emergency measures in place

It would mean hospitals (pictured) are close to providing full services once again, but they will keep emergency measures in place

Researcher Dr Katharina Hauck, of Imperial College London, said: ‘It is impressive how the NHS adapted to provide life-saving treatment to Covid patients, but we have now many patients who are waiting for essential surgery.’

Ruth McCabe, also of Imperial, said it was ‘imperative’ that the emergency measures were ‘sustained to resume elective surgery while allowing for potential future surges in Covid-19 patients’. 

Officials said the latest figure for Covid-19 deaths was further proof of a downward trend, though delays in processing fatalities over the weekend mean the daily totals are often lower on Sundays and Mondays.

Nevertheless, it is two thirds lower than a fortnight ago, when 111 deaths were recorded and at a similar level to March 21, two days before lockdown started.

Official figures show the number of those being put in hospital with the virus is also declining.

Some 430 were admitted on Saturday, down from 515 the week before, and a fraction of the peak of 3,432 on April 1. 

The number being treated to hospital has also fallen by almost a fifth to 5,507, from 6,826 the same time last week, according to the Department of Health. 

Those most severely ill, requiring ventilators, has fallen to 395 from 556 a week earlier and a peak of more than 3,000.

Has the virus burned itself out?

Analysis by John Naish

Nearly three months into Britain’s coronavirus pandemic and death and infection rates are falling steadily. 

Elsewhere in the world, in countries that are some weeks ahead of us and where lockdown restrictions have been eased, there are as yet few signs of a dreaded ‘second wave’ – although it is early days.

Now some scientists are suggesting – tentatively to be sure – that this strain of the coronavirus may be following a path beaten by other pathogens, whereby the murderous intruder evolves into a house-guest that lives peaceably inside us.

Three months into lockdown in Britain (pictured) and the number of deaths and daily cases are beginning to fall

Three months into lockdown in Britain (pictured) and the number of deaths and daily cases are beginning to fall

Three months into lockdown in Britain (pictured) and the number of deaths and daily cases are beginning to fall 

Early evidence for this positive development comes from northern Italy which suffered the full force of the pandemic weeks before it hit us.

Late last month, Professor Matteo Bassetti, the head of infectious diseases at San Martino hospital in Genoa, told journalists: ‘The strength the virus had two months ago is not the same strength it has today. 

‘The majority of patients [seen] during March and April were very sick with acute respiratory distress syndrome, shock, multiple organ failure.

‘The majority died in the first days after admission. We no longer see these types of patients. 

‘Is this because the virus lost some viral potency?’ he asked. ‘I don’t know.’

A positive sign in the European fight against coronavirus: Italian mayor of Gorizia (left) reopens the border with Slovenia in the north of Italy - one of the areas most devastated by the virus. It comes as Italian scientist say the virus is weakening

A positive sign in the European fight against coronavirus: Italian mayor of Gorizia (left) reopens the border with Slovenia in the north of Italy - one of the areas most devastated by the virus. It comes as Italian scientist say the virus is weakening

A positive sign in the European fight against coronavirus: Italian mayor of Gorizia (left) reopens the border with Slovenia in the north of Italy – one of the areas most devastated by the virus. It comes as Italian scientist say the virus is weakening 

His observation is supported by an analysis of local death rates by Professor Lamberto Manzoli, an epidemiologist at northern Italy’s Ferrara University. 

His results suggest that from March to April, mortality from Covid-19 across all ages fell by more than half.

Professor Manzoli’s paper has not yet been published in a reputable scientific journal and so has not been subject to peer review. 

Scientists are still on a steep learning curve with this novel virus, but other observations feed into this theory.

In China, as far as we know, there have been localised spikes – including the current outbreak associated with a market in Beijing – but no widespread surge.

In France, Spain and Italy, where some semblance of normal life began two to three weeks ago, both new infections and deaths remain low.

In European countries such as France (pictured), a sense of normal life has returned with the number of cases and deaths remaining low

In European countries such as France (pictured), a sense of normal life has returned with the number of cases and deaths remaining low

In European countries such as France (pictured), a sense of normal life has returned with the number of cases and deaths remaining low

A similar apparent fall in lethality has been reported in America. Lee Riley, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of California, Berkeley, told the science publication Elemental that data from New York hints at an improvement in recoveries. 

‘Every time a virus passes from one person to another it goes through mutations,’ he says. 

‘These can accumulate and the virulence of the virus can ultimately lessen. It’s in the nature of these viruses to get tired after a while.’

While the world must hope and pray that the virulence is waning, there are some caveats, including two other possible explanations for the drop in deaths. 

The first is that treatment has vastly improved as doctors have acquired experience of managing Covid-19.

Indeed, Prof Manzoli acknowledges that clinical protocols seem more effective now. In the early days, clinicians waited until the condition worsened before giving drugs and ventilation – the ‘Chinese protocol’. Now they start early, he says.

Alternatively, the virus might simply have infected and killed the most vulnerable first, with more resilient patients surviving.

UK experts are dubious, arguing that the genetics of the disease have not changed. Dr Oscar MacLean, a bioinformatician at Glasgow University’s Institute for Infection, Immunity, and Inflammation, argues: ‘We’ve seen no evidence of widespread [reduction in its lethality].’ 

UK scientists remain sceptical, however, with regards to the debate surrounding the reduction in the virus' lethality

UK scientists remain sceptical, however, with regards to the debate surrounding the reduction in the virus' lethality

UK scientists remain sceptical, however, with regards to the debate surrounding the reduction in the virus’ lethality

He adds: ‘The golden rule is that viruses tend to evolve over time to become less pathogenic, but that doesn’t happen over a matter of a few months. It’s more a matter of years.’

Viruses can evolve to a point where they can indeed help their hosts (human or animal), establishing a symbiotic relationship from which both species benefit.

This may be the optimum state for the pathogen which has one purpose – to reproduce itself and infect new individuals and it can better achieve this if it does not kill its host (one reason why the Ebola virus outbreaks, with a 50 per cent fatality rate, tend to burn out).

Dr Frank Ryan, a British evolutionary biologist and author of Virolution, about the powerful role of viruses in evolution, calls the beneficial relationship ‘aggressive symbiosis’.

The herpes virus, for example, has developed symbiosis with the squirrel monkey, passing harmlessly from mother to baby. 

If a rival species such as marmosets invades squirrel-monkey territory, the virus infects the challenger to devastating effect.

It is in the squirrel monkeys’ interest not to purge the virus, so its immune system views it as friend rather than intruder.

Perhaps this type of ‘jungle immune system’ helps wild bats. 

In fact, some ecologists have speculated on whether Covid-19 might be bats’ acquired defence against humans destroying their habitats and eating them.

Could we even ultimately develop a mutually beneficial relationship with coronavirus? 

We know that nearly 10 per cent of the human genome comprises genetic material from viruses that invaded us in the past and this ‘borrowed’ viral DNA does vital work – ranging from enabling us to digest starchy foods to, ironically, helping us to fight infections.

Conversely, the Covid-19 virus might never bring anything useful to the human genetic table.

But three months on, even the slightest hint that it is in retreat – and for whatever reason – is something to hold on to.

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Four people rushed to hospital with serious injuries after ‘multiple stabbing’ attack in Plymouth

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four people rushed to hospital with serious injuries after multiple stabbing attack in plymouth

Four people have been rushed to hospital with serious injuries after a ‘multiple stabbing’ attack in Plymouth.  

Officers attended the scene on Albert Road at 10pm on Saturday with reports of numerous casualties.

The suspect initially fled the scene but Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed they have since arrested a 50-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder.  

Four people have been rushed to hospital with serious injuries after a 'multiple stabbing' attack in Plymouth (scene pictured)

Four people have been rushed to hospital with serious injuries after a ‘multiple stabbing’ attack in Plymouth (scene pictured)

Police have released a statement on Twitter that read: ‘Police were called just after 10pm on Saturday night following a serious incident having occurred near the Railway Inn on Albert Road in the Stoke area of Plymouth. 

‘Police units attended and found four people having sustained serious but not life threatening injuries; all have since been taken to Derriford hospital for treatment.

‘The suspect had fled the scene by the time police attended.

‘Follow up enquiries meant that armed offices attended an address in the Beacon Park area of Plymouth in an attempt to locate the suspect; he was no at the address.

‘Further enquiries and proactive police work led to officers stopping a vehicle near Ide on the outskirts of Exeter in which a man in his 50s was apprehended.

‘The suspect had been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder but has initially been taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

‘Police enquiries continue in this matter.

‘Anyone with information and who has yet to speak to officers is asked to contact 110 quoting log number 1112 19th September.’ 

The residential road remains sealed off and witnesses have said that a police helicopter has been circling the scene. 

One resident told ITV: ‘I live on Albert Road and drove home to find it closed but explained I lived here. 

‘Was told to go in and lock doors. Multiple police cars and emergency services including a helicopter and armed police.’ 

More follows. 

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Britons are ALREADY looking for frozen turkeys and Christmas trees as they yearn for festivities

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britons are already looking for frozen turkeys and christmas trees as they yearn for festivities

Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s says it has seen a jump in customers searching for frozen turkeys and Christmas trees as Britons, weary from six months of social restrictions, yearn for the big event.

Sainsbury’s group e-commerce director Nigel Blunt said interest in festive ranges is normally small in September. 

But he said last week there were 400 searches for ‘whole frozen turkeys’, while searches for ‘mince pies’ and ‘Christmas puddings’ have tripled and quadrupled respectively on last year.

Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s says it has seen a jump in customers searching for frozen turkeys and Christmas trees as Britons, weary from six months of social restrictions, yearn for the big event

Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s says it has seen a jump in customers searching for frozen turkeys and Christmas trees as Britons, weary from six months of social restrictions, yearn for the big event

Mr Blunt, who oversees £6.3 billion sales at Sainsbury’s and its Argos subsidiary, said: ‘Historically… as soon as Halloween is over, Christmas spikes.

‘But this year we’ve seen it come forward all the way and, in terms of interest online and what people are beginning to search for, we’ve got the increase in Halloween and Christmas happening at the same time.’

He said the retailer had ‘pulled forward some of our plans’ in response, including launching a limited first wave of Christmas products two weeks early.

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David Mellor: It’s time to stand up to this virus like our parents and grandparents would have done 

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david mellor its time to stand up to this virus like our parents and grandparents would have done

Last month I visited Wareham, my home town in Dorset. While there, I sat on the quay by the river Frome watching kids jumping into the water in the sunshine. If I’d done the same as them back in the 1950s, my mother would have half killed me.

Polio, which was a scourge, could be caught from raw sewage, and the Frome and the nearby – appropriately named – Piddle rivers were full of it, thanks to the cows of south Dorset, which were productive in every department.

During my trip I also visited the graves of my uncle Ronald and aunt Una. I never met them, because they died in infancy in the 1920s from an outbreak of diphtheria.

A school nurse giving boys from the Licensed Victuallers School, Slough, their daily anti-flu gargle. David Mellor says: 'There is a great danger now that we are talking ourselves into a panic – and that the fear of Covid-19 is far worse than the virus itself.'

A school nurse giving boys from the Licensed Victuallers School, Slough, their daily anti-flu gargle. David Mellor says: ‘There is a great danger now that we are talking ourselves into a panic – and that the fear of Covid-19 is far worse than the virus itself.’

Unlike Covid-19, diphtheria liked its victims young. It was known popularly as ‘the Strangling Angel’, the biggest killer of children under 14 at that time.

My grandfather was still recovering from being gassed in the trenches but he, a railway guard, and my grandmother just kept working hard and bringing up their two other children, including of course my mother. They didn’t make a fuss and nor did anyone else. It was just the way things were.

So why, I’d like to ask, can’t we behave the same now? Today more than ten million people are effectively locked down once again. It looks very much as though pubs and restaurants everywhere will soon have curfews.

We will be asked not to mix with other households, despite the loneliness and misery that enforced isolation causes, particularly to the most vulnerable. And if we do not obey these nannying rules, then we face the prospect of arrest.

This was not how we faced down illness in the past, when we were expected to get on with the business of living. We took responsibility for our own actions and the risks we wanted to take.

There is a great danger now that we are talking ourselves into a panic – and that the fear of Covid-19 is far worse than the virus itself. Boris Johnson is quite right when he says another lockdown would be a disaster for the British economy. But he’s drifting into one just the same.

All very Boris. He can’t even get the kind of camel right in yet another of his orotund analogies to justify this nonsense. It’s a Bactrian not a dromedary that has two humps. So go to the naughty step Boris – and while you’re there, help me with this one.

A week ago you were promoting Operation Moonshot, a plan to test ten million Brits every day. But as it turns out, that’s all moonshine.

Six days later the testing system was described as riddled with ‘chaos and inefficiency’, the testing tsar Baroness Harding seems to have got nothing done over the summer and symptom-free people have been told to stay away and won’t get tested for the foreseeable future.

David Mellor, pictured, says Boris Johnson needs o ask himself 'a few fundamental questions': Why is he so afraid of a virus that kills one in a hundred of its victims? And what is his strategy?

David Mellor, pictured, says Boris Johnson needs o ask himself ‘a few fundamental questions’: Why is he so afraid of a virus that kills one in a hundred of its victims? And what is his strategy?

It’s the way Boris tells them. Those flowery, rhetorical flourishes from a man who is still, at heart a columnist, rather than a Prime Minister introducing and carrying through genuinely effective policies. As Benjamin Disraeli once observed: ‘The British people require grave statesmen.’ Not what we’re getting at the moment.

Instead of a torrent of words, what is surely needed is a coherent, realistic, achievable policy before the public give up on Boris altogether. And that policy cannot be based on running away from Covid.

And yet Boris is holed up in Downing Street right now working on a shutdown of London for at least a fortnight. Catastrophic.

Boris sees himself as a Churchillian figure, so let me remind him of a magnificent piece of Churchillian phrase-making, when denouncing the hopelessness of the Chamberlain government in the 1930s: ‘Decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all- powerful to be impotent.’

As a description of Boris’s own government, it’s not half bad.

The thing about Churchill is he saw further than his contemporaries. Does Boris? I don’t think Churchill would have missed five emergency Cobra meetings in January, apparently to sort out domestic problems, when there was still time to take effective action against this newly emergent threat.

And would Churchill have allowed more than 20 million people to flood through Britain’s airports in the following three months without any medical checks whatsoever, allowing the virus to take root and spread? Only when the damage was done were panicky quarantine measures introduced, so arbitrary, they are in the main ignored.

And by then not only was the virus on the rampage, but the most devastating economic harm the nation has suffered since the war – a 20 per cent fall in GDP in the second quarter of 2020 – came about as the direct result of the lockdown. But this unprecedented economic pain hasn’t done the trick, has it?

Within a matter of weeks there were moles to whack, and camel humps to flatten. And, let’s not forget, hundreds of billions have been spent in temporary mitigation of the consequences of the lockdown. What we have seen is the worst deterioration in the public finances ever experienced in this country in so short a time. The effect on living standards will be inescapable. Health will deteriorate and life expectancy will fall.

When I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 1990, national debt was 20 per cent of annual GDP. Now it’s over 100 per cent, and if we blunder into yet another lockdown, Rishi Sunak will be pressured into further spending, and anything on that scale will be absolutely ruinous.

Which is why, of course, even Boris acknowledges how disastrous for the economy that would be.

But he seems impotent to stop himself being dragged back into a lockdown, almost by default. Impotence is an insulting charge to level at such an alpha male as Boris, but I do so, and so will millions of others.

Watching Ministers chasing around last week, unable to get even a test and trace scheme to work, is risible. These are people seemingly incapable of organising a drinks party in a brewery.

So it’s surely time for Boris to ask himself a few fundamental questions. Such as this: why is he so afraid of a virus that kills one in a hundred of its victims? The Black Death killed 50 per cent. The public know this, and they know the limited impact that Covid has on young and middle-aged people. Anyone under the age of 45 has almost as big a chance of being killed by a meteorite as dying from Covid.

Much worse for these folk is losing their jobs, and being thrown onto the unemployment scrapheap.

What is Boris’s strategy? Is it, as I fear, to keep us in a state of terrified limbo until such time as a vaccine appears? Which might be never.

If that is the truth about what the Prime Minister and his Chief Medical Officer privately intend, then it is nothing short of a disgrace.

Now is the time to stand up to this virus, as previous generations did. Some 250,000 people died in the Spanish Flu epidemic at the end of the First World War, but the country just got on with it.

Up to seven times as many people have been dying from the flu as from Covid-19, yet we hear nothing about their deaths.

Isn’t it time we stood up to Covid, Boris? Time to be a real Churchill and stop being King Canute?

This virus cannot be halted in its tracks, however many lockdowns you impose. This stop-go nonsense brings whole communities to a grinding halt, destroys lives and livelihoods and threatens the prosperity of each and every family in the land. More of this, Boris, can only spell failure for you, reputational catastrophe and, in due course, electoral oblivion. 

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