England’s Covid cases have reached their highest level since mid-January with nearly one in 50 infected with the virus last week, official data has shown amid growing fears that the impending fourth wave and sluggish booster vaccine roll-out may force ministers into adopting its winter Plan B.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show around 977,900 were infected in England on any given day in the week up to October 16, up a tenth on the previous estimate. Infections have not been as high since the country began to recover from the darkest days of the second wave in at the start of the year.
Meanwhile, separate data from the UK Health Security Agency, which took over from the now-defunct PHE, today showed the the R rate has risen to between 1.0 and 1.2, up from 0.9 to 1.1. It is the first time R has definitely been above one since August.
Figures from the Department of Health — based on the Government’s official testing programme as opposed to the random swabbing of thousands of Brits — showed cases breached 50,000 for the first time in three months yesterday.
Department of Health bosses recorded another 52,009 infections, a 15 per cent jump on a week ago and the highest number since July 17 at the peak of the summer spike. The daily average is now approaching peak second wave levels.
Scientists warn cases will continue to spike unless Britain doubles the speed of its vaccine booster rollout. Only 4million out of the 8.7million patients in England who are eligible for a booster now have had one, including just a third of care home residents and half of over-80s.
It is being held up by the NHS sending texts to elderly Britons who ‘do not know how to use their phones’, doctors warned today.
Boris Johnson yesterday issued a desperate plea for more Brits to come forward for their boosters to ‘fortify’ their defences against the virus, amid fears the rising cases could lead to last-minute curbs ahead of Christmas once again.
The Government has so far resisted growing pressure to revert to its winter ‘Plan B’ to bring back masks and WFH guidance despite surging case numbers and in the face of doctors accusing them of being ‘wilfully negligent’.
Separate data from the UK Health Security Agency, which took over from the now-defunct PHE, today showed the the R rate rose on last week and is around 1.0 to 1.2, up from 0.9 to 1.1
Cases are estimated to have increased in all regions of England except south-east England and the West Midlands, where it appeared to level off, and north-east England and Yorkshire and the Humber, where the trend was uncertain
The percentage of people testing positive remains highest for those in school years seven to 11, at 7.8 per cent, up week-on-week from 7.1 per cent
School closes early for half term after rise in Covid cases
A secondary school closed two days early for half term following rising Covid cases amongst pupils and staff.
Admiral Lord Nelson School, in Portsmouth, Hampshire, closed its doors on Thursday after 161 students were isolating along with 17 staff absent, mostly because of Covid.
A statement on the school’s website reads: ‘It is with regret that we have had to take the decision to close the school to most students for the next two days and move to online remote education instead over this two-day period.
‘Over the last two weeks we have had rising numbers of both students and staff having to isolate due to testing positive for Covid-19.
‘To mitigate against this, we have increased hygiene and cleaning procedures, encouraged regular testing by all and brought back in the use of face masks in communal areas.
‘However, these measures have not been as affective as we would have liked them to be and in the last three days cases of Covid have risen rapidly.’
It continues: ‘With half term approaching we had hoped that we would be able to manage through until Friday and that the break over half term would curb the outbreak within the school.
‘However due to the figures stated above that are still rising we do not believe it is safe to keep students in school with our reduced staffing that makes it increasingly difficult to maintain high standards of education and safety within our school.’
Remote learning will be provided for pupils during the closure, the statement adds.
In other coronavirus developments:
- Private firms are charging £150 for ‘cheaper’ lateral flow Covid swabs after the Government axed £100-a-go PCR travel tests;
- Tory MPs fear Boris Johnson will put the nation on a ‘slippery slope’ back to another lockdown if he triggers the Government’s coronavirus ‘Plan B’;
- Kate Garraway appeared to confirm the identity of the mystery Royal who helped support her during her husband Derek Draper’s Covid battle is Prince Charles;
- Official data revealed Covid was the third leading cause of death in England last month — with only heart disease and dementia killing more people;
- Ministers today rejected calls to ease immigration rules to bring in more care workers from abroad to tackle a national staffing crisis.
When modelling the level of Covid infections among different age ranges in England, the ONS said rates have increased in all age groups except for those aged 25 to 34, where the trend was uncertain.
The percentage of people testing positive remains highest for those in school years seven to 11, at 7.8 per cent, up week-on-week from 7.1 per cent.
Cases are estimated to have increased in all regions of England except south-east England and the West Midlands, where it appeared to level off, and north-east England and Yorkshire and the Humber, where the trend was uncertain.
In northwest England and southwest England, around one in 45 people was likely to test positive in the week to October 16. This was the highest proportion for any region.
London and south-east England had the lowest proportion, at around one in 75.
Professor Jim Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford, said: ‘Today’s ONS figures for week ending October 16 are not good news.
‘These data are the most valuable resource we have for judging the virus. The day to day results are a poor indicator.
‘The power of the vaccines can be seen in the much lower death and hospitalisation rate that this high level of infections is currently causing.
‘There is evidence of slight waning of immunity. Vaccines are extremely effective at preventing deaths and hospitalisation; they are less good at preventing infection.
He continued: ‘Even extremely effective is not perfect. A slight decrease in immunity still means you are protected against the worst of the disease but might lead to an increase in cases.
‘For those offered a booster (third) jab, science shows it is incredibly effective. I would advise taking it immediately it is offered. For those who have not had their first jab, they are almost certain to contract Covid if they have not already done so.’
Separate figures yesterday showed infections are rising in every age group and four-fifths of areas in England, with an even more transmissible strain of Delta thought to be to blame.
AY.4.2 has spread to all but two dozen places in the country.
And the country’s largest symptom-tracking surveillance study suggested daily cases have already hit 80,000, feared to be the threshold at which the epidemic becomes ‘unstable’.
Only around 4million(purple line) out of the 8.7million eligible people (green line) in England have received the crucial third dose, prompting ministers to urge people to come forward for their inoculations
Jab rollout is going too slow because NHS is sending TEXTS to elderly Britons who ‘don’t know how to use their phone and book online’
Britain’s sluggish booster vaccine rollout is being held up by the NHS sending texts to elderly Britons who ‘do not know how to use their phones’, medics warned today amid growing demands to speed up the drive and prevent ministers from reimposing restrictions once more.
Reena Barrai, a pharmacist in Surrey, said many patients have come in ‘anxious’ because they cannot work out how to access the online system to book their top-up dose.
She added the pharmacy was becoming a ‘surrogate’ 119 service, with patients coming to her because they did not want to be a burden on the telephone hotline or their doctor.
A couple of GPs said today they were also seeing patients who were struggling to work out how to book booster jabs, and that the ‘urgency’ to get vaccinated seen during the first drive was lacking.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, has maintained that the country is equipped to deal with 100,000 cases per day, however.
Britain is detecting some 46,791 Covid cases every day on average, official data shows, with the latest figure up 17 per cent on the same time last week.
Some 54,571 people who were swabbed for the virus on October 18 tested positive. This is barely inches from the peak in mid-July when 60,763 people were found to be infected with Covid.
A weekly report from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) — which has replaced Public Health England — yesterday revealed Covid cases have risen in all age groups, but are now at a record high among school children.
And some 85 per cent of the 149 local authorities in England had seen a spike in infections in the week to October 17, with 12 areas recording a spike of more than 50 per cent.
A total of 1,366.8 cases per 100,000 people aged 10 to 19 were recorded in the seven days to October 17, up week-on-week from 1,134.9. The rate for five to nine-year-olds is 719.2, up week-on-week from 585.0.
For both age groups this is the highest weekly rate since this data was first collected in October 2020, according to the UKHSA.
Case rates are continuing to rise in all age groups in England. The lowest rate is among people aged 80 and over, at 121.2, up from 115.6. Rates are also increasing in all but one region of England.
Separate data from King’s College London’s symptom tracking study found that cases among Britons had risen by a fifth in a week to the highest level this year.
It estimated 81,823 people were getting infected with the virus every day in the week ending October 16, up 17 per cent from 69,993 the week before, and nearly double the 45,000 officially reported each day.
Data from the study — which is based on reports from around 750,000 users of the ZOE Covid Symptom Study app — suggests one in 63 people in the UK have symptomatic Covid.
Professor Tim Spector, the epidemiologist who leads the study, warned that the UK is ‘really in trouble’ and ‘needs to act now to prevent the situation from escalating out of control ahead of winter’.
Professor Spector said: ‘With over 80,000 new cases a day the UK really is in trouble.
‘This hasn’t happened overnight, but frustratingly our calls for a more cautious approach to Covid management have gone unheeded, despite the upward trends we’ve reported now for several weeks.
‘As feared, cases have spilled over into the older age group which will certainly lead to more hospitalisations and deaths. The UK needs to act now to prevent the situation from escalating out of control ahead of winter.’