Health

UK ‘may have already passed peak of second Covid wave’ & could be in ‘good shape’ for Christmas, expert claims


BRITAIN may have already passed the peak of the second wave of Covid-19 and should be in “good shape” by December, experts said last night.

Daily infections are down on a week ago, while the national R-rate also remains stable across the last seven days.

The findings will be a major boost to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hopes of ending the lockdown on December 2

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The findings will be a major boost to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hopes of ending the lockdown on December 2Credit: AP:Associated Press
The PM visited a testing centre at Leicester’s De Montfort University yesterday

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The PM visited a testing centre at Leicester’s De Montfort University yesterdayCredit: AP:Associated Press

A survey by the Office for National Statistics also suggests new infections are falling — while Public Health England data showed cases dropped in more than half of the country’s local authorities.

The findings will be a major boost to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hopes of ending the lockdown on December 2.

Analysis of swab tests — some from as recently as four days ago — indicate there are 42,049 new symptomatic cases each day.

This is down from 43,569 a day last week, according to the ZOE Kings College London UK Infection Survey.

The R-rate — the number of people each person passes the disease to — also declined in five of England’s seven regions while overall rates for the UK stayed at a range of between 1.1 and 1.3, down from 1.2 to 1.4 two weeks ago.

It means new infections and the R-rate were already tumbling before the second nationwide lockdown imposed by the PM, who visited a testing centre at Leicester’s De Montfort University yesterday.

The ONS survey painted a similar picture, indicating England had 45,700 new cases a day in the week ending October 31, down from 51,900 a day the previous week.

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And the PHE data showed that infections fell in 82 of 149 local authorities last week.

They included previous hotspots such as Blackburn, Darwen, Liverpool and Manchester, suggesting that the previous tier-based system seemed to be working.

Epidemiologist Prof Tim Spector, of King’s College, said: “Although the number of new symptomatic cases is still high at over 40,000 daily, over the past week cases are heading in the right direction.

“The worst affected areas have shown the most improvement, but large differences between regions remain.

“Our data is an early indicator of the future NHS situation as we are two weeks ahead of hospital data and four weeks ahead of most deaths.

“So, while these population changes will take a while to work through, we believe they are a positive sign that we have passed the peak of this second wave.

“We urge everyone to respect the restrictions and help get the number of cases down as soon as possible to help the NHS, end the lockdown and get us in good shape for December.”

His UK Infection Survey — based on data from more than a million people — reveals daily new infections have fallen in the north of England and Scotland.

This is evidence that the social restrictions prior to lockdown have had a real impact.

Prof James Naismith

They are rising slowly in the South East and South West but remain much lower than in other regions.

Infections nationally have stopped increasing in all age groups apart from the over-60s, where there has been a modest rise.

The ONS survey found around 1.1 per cent of the population of England, or one in 90 people, are now living with the virus.

Rates are four times higher in the North West than the South East, at 2.2 and 0.5 per cent respectively.

Yesterday’s daily figures revealed a further 355 people died from coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, with infections up by 23,287. It means the total number of deaths in the UK is now 48,475.

Prof James Naismith, from the University of Oxford, said of the ONS figures: “This is evidence that the social restrictions prior to lockdown have had a real impact.

“Should we be at or past the peak of infections, then I would not expect the death rate to exceed 1,000 a day for any prolonged period.

“However, we are still very likely to face daily death tolls of 500 a day for a period in November. Each death represents a human tragedy.

“Should next week’s data show a similar stabilisation or reduction, then we can be confident that the second wave has for now stabilised.

The national lockdown will not begin to show up in ONS figures for another two weeks, but we would expect it to bring a rapid decrease in the number of new infections.

“If we can contain the virus until the new year, mass testing, vaccines and new medicines will transform our outlook.”

 

Prof Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, added: “Taken together these sources do suggest a decline in the spread of the epidemic over the past week or so.

“Whether this turns out to be a temporary decline or a longer term trend, possibly as a result of the imposition of the three-tier system, it is too early to say.

“Hopefully when the current lockdown ends we will continue to see a continuing decline throughout the rest of the year and into 2021.”

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