UK records seven daily Covid deaths after falling a third in a week

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The UK’s daily Covid deaths have fallen by more than a third in a week as seven more victims and 2,874 positive tests were recorded. 

Today’s infections are up slightly on the 2,657 last Thursday, a rise of about 8 per cent, but the national case rate has remained stable since April.

Meanwhile, latest data shows another 635,000 Covid vaccine doses were administered yesterday, with 265,000 Britons coming forward for their first appointment and 370,000 for their second. It means 37.2million people have received one injection — the equivalent of more than 70 per cent of all adults — and 21.2m are fully inoculated.

The figures came as separate official statistics showed the nation’s Covid outbreak is still flat, despite the rapid spread of the Indian variant. 

Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report found cases remained ‘stable’ nationally at around 12,000 last week, and dropped in all age groups except five to nine-year-olds. Hospitalisations with the virus also fell across the country, while infection rates dipped in every region except the North West, which is struggling against an outbreak of the Indian strain. 

Some 95 out of 149 local authorities — or 64 per cent — saw their Covid cases dip last week. In contrast, there were 66 that recorded a drop over the previous seven-day spell. 

But Dr Yvonne Doyle, PHE’s medical director, said the agency was concerned about the Indian variant and was ‘constantly monitoring the situation’. She added: ‘Until we know more it’s vital we don’t let our guard down too soon and remain cautious. We do not want to undo the huge progress we’ve made so far.’

Other figures from the PHE’s weekly surveillance report showed the ten areas with the biggest Covid outbreaks were all hotspots for the Indian variant.

Cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India are rising in the UK, potentially threatening the lockdown-easing roadmap

Cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India are rising in the UK, potentially threatening the lockdown-easing roadmap.

SAGE adviser warns UK’s third wave has already started because of Indian Covid variant – despite data showing number of Brits falling ill is FLAT 

Britain’s third wave of Covid may have already begun because of the rapid spread of the Indian variant, a SAGE adviser warned today — despite data showing cases nationally are still flat and one top expert saying the mutant strain shouldn’t overwhelm the NHS. 

University College London epidemiologist Professor Andrew Hayward made the claim when asked whether the UK was at the beginning of another wave. ‘I think so,’ he told BBC Breakfast. ‘What we can see is that this strain can circulate very effectively. 

‘Although it was originally imported through travel to India it spread fairly effectively first of all within households after that and now more broadly within communities. So I don’t really see why it wouldn’t continue to spread in other parts of the country. 

He added: ‘Obviously we are doing everything we can to contain that, but it is likely more generalised measures may start to be needed to control it.’  

However, his comments came just hours before a King’s College London’s symptom-tracking app predicted Covid cases are not rising nationally, despite surging infections with the Indian variant. 

Academics estimated around 2,750 people are falling ill with the coronavirus every day across the UK, with the figure having barely changed in a week.

Professor Tim Spector, the epidemiologist who leads the app, said B.1.617.2 ‘hasn’t altered numbers significantly’ and outbreaks remain focused in hotspots, such as Bolton and Blackburn. ‘While the outbreaks remain localised and UK numbers are steady and most cases appear mild, it’s highly unlikely to cause the NHS to be overrun or stop us coming out of lockdown,’ he said.

SAGE scientists had predicted there would be a third wave of the pandemic as restrictions were eased and more people were allowed to mix. But questions remain over how big the outbreak will be because vaccines will stop many people from catching the disease and being hospitalised with the infection. 

Whitehall insiders say the ‘mood music has definitely improved’ after fears were raised that the rapid spread of the Indian variant could derail No10’s plan to drop all lockdown restrictions on June 21. 

It came as SAGE adviser and University College London epidemiologist Professor Andrew Hayward today claimed the UK was at the beginning of another wave because of the rapid spread of the mutant strain. 

‘Although it was originally imported through travel to India it spread fairly effectively first of all within households after that and now more broadly within communities,’ he told BBC Breakfast. ‘So I don’t really see why it wouldn’t continue to spread in other parts of the country.’

He added: ‘Obviously we are doing everything we can to contain that, but it is likely more generalised measures may start to be needed to control it.’  

But Professor Hayward’s comments come amid growing optimism from Number 10 that the Indian variant won’t jeopardise plans to ease all lockdown restrictions on June 21, despite fears the highly-transmissible strain could scupper ‘freedom day’.

Boris Johnson last night told the powerful 1922 committee of Tory MPs he was ‘even more cautiously optimistic’ the next stage of relaxation can go ahead. He said: ‘I know there are anxieties about new variants but we can see nothing to suggest that we have to deviate from the road map.’

And more promising figures from King’s College London’s symptom-tracking app also predicted Covid cases are not rising nationally, despite surging infections in hotspots. Experts estimated around 2,750 people are falling ill with the coronavirus every day across the UK, with the figure having barely changed in a week.

Professor Tim Spector, the epidemiologist who leads the app, said B.1.617.2 ‘hasn’t altered numbers significantly’ and outbreaks remain focused in hotspots, such as Bolton. ‘While the outbreaks remain localised and UK numbers are steady and most cases appear mild, it’s highly unlikely to cause the NHS to be overrun or stop us coming out of lockdown,’ he said. 

SAGE scientists had predicted there would be a third wave of the pandemic as restrictions were eased and more people were allowed to mix. 

But questions remain over how big the outbreak will be because vaccines will stop many people from catching the disease and being hospitalised. Government advisers don’t believe the resurgence will be anywhere near as bad as January’s crisis because of jabs and warmer weather.

Almost 3,000 cases of the Indian variant have been detected in the UK, with the figure having quadrupled in a fortnight. Surge testing has been deployed in Bedford, Burnley, Hounslow, Kirklees, Leicester and North Tyneside to root out cases of the strain.

It comes as ministers accelerate the vaccination roll-out with plans to reach all over-18s within a month, with over-30s set to be offered their first dose by the end of May. More than 36.9million Britons — or seven in ten adults — have already had at least a jab. England’s roll-out was expanded to 34 and 35-year-olds today.  

PHE publishes a weekly surveillance report tracking the spread of the virus across the country.

They found the infection rate had fallen in almost every age group. It was highest among 10 to 19-year-olds (43.9 cases per 100,000 people) and lowest among the over-70s (4.1) who have each been offered at least one dose of the Covid vaccine.

Hospitalisations with the virus also dipped nationally from 1.02 to 0.73 per 100,000 people.

Bolton — which is struggling against the country’s largest outbreak of the Indian variant — has the highest Covid case rate in England (328.3).

Its neighbour Blackburn with Darwen has the second highest rate (159.7), followed by Bedford (124.65).  

 

Public Health England data showed Covid cases remained flat last week despite surging infections with the Indian variant

Public Health England data showed Covid cases remained flat last week despite surging infections with the Indian variant

They found weekly hospitalisations due to the virus also fell again and those due to influenza remained flat

They found weekly hospitalisations due to the virus also fell again and those due to influenza remained flat 

Covid cases dropped in every age group except 5 to 9-year-olds last week, Public Health England data showed

Covid cases dropped in every age group except 5 to 9-year-olds last week, Public Health England data showed

And Covid cases dipped in every region except the North West which is battling a large outbreak of the Indian strain

And Covid cases dipped in every region except the North West which is battling a large outbreak of the Indian strain

ZOE and King's College London's symptom tracking app estimated there were 2,750 new cases of the virus every day, the equivalent of one in 1,796 Britons suffering symptomatic Covid in the week to May 15. They said this was not a significant change from last week. Their data was published yesterday

ZOE and King’s College London’s symptom tracking app estimated there were 2,750 new cases of the virus every day, the equivalent of one in 1,796 Britons suffering symptomatic Covid in the week to May 15. They said this was not a significant change from last week. Professor Tim Spector said the Indian variant ‘hasn’t altered the numbers significantly

Flat hospital and death rates in Bolton may be first sign jabs are working against Indian variant, experts say 

The Covid outbreak in Bolton may be the first sign that the NHS won’t be overwhelmed by the Indian variant, scientists say.

The mutant B.1.617.2 strain is dominant in the Greater Manchester borough, and is behind a huge spike in cases that has made it the UK’s Covid capital.

Infections have almost soared to levels seen during January’s second wave, with around 150 positive tests now being reported every day compared to fewer than 20 in April.

The town’s infection rate has doubled to 283 per 100,000 people in a week – but a huge testing drive means far more people are being regularly checked for the disease.

The surge in cases has yet to translate into an uptick in Covid hospitalisations, with just one person on average being admitted each day.

Deaths also remain flat with just two fatalities recorded in May.

Infections in Bolton have almost soared to levels seen during January's second wave, with around 150 positive tests now being reported every day compared to fewer than 20 in April

Infections in Bolton have almost soared to levels seen during January’s second wave, with around 150 positive tests now being reported every day compared to fewer than 20 in April

The surge in cases has yet to translate into an uptick in Covid hospitalisations, with just one person on average being admitted each day

The surge in cases has yet to translate into an uptick in Covid hospitalisations, with just one person on average being admitted each day

Deaths also remain flat with just two fatalities recorded in May

Deaths also remain flat with just two fatalities recorded in May

Dr Simon Clarke, a molecular biologist from Reading University, said this was confirmation that the jabs protect well against the strain.

An upbeat Matt Hancock led a Downing Street press conference last night where he claimed the Government had ‘increasing confidence’ the vaccines were highly effective against the Indian variant. 

He had echoed comments made by Boris Johnson earlier in the House of Commons, who said he’d been presented promising data highlighting the strength of the jabs. 

Dr Clarke told MailOnline: ‘They [the Government] will be looking at these hospital rates in Bolton and they seem to be very comfortable about them.

‘So I don’t think it [the variant] is going to be the disaster some people thought at first.’

He urged people to continue taking precautions and not get too lax with the rules.

‘Just because the vaccines work against the strain, I think we always knew that was going to be the case.

‘What we don’t really know is whether the jabs will be just as effective against the Indian variant as they are the Kent one.

‘So I think focusing n the top efficacy numbers can sometimes give people false confidence.’

Bolton’s outbreak is mainly being driven by younger people, who face only a tiny risk of dying or falling severely ill with Covid.

Government scientists have said the spread appears to be predominantly happening within South Asian communities in the town, who are more likely to live in multigenerational households and in high density housing.

The fact infection rates remain low in elderly age groups may be further proof that the vaccines are preventing younger people passing it on to senior relatives, Dr Clarke said.  

However there has been a recent uptick in case rates in people in over 60, with about 43 cases per 100,000 people according to the most recent count. For comparison, the rate is believed to be about 300 for teenagers aged 15 to 19.

As it stands, a total of 156,927 people have been vaccinated in Bolton, of which 89,137 have been fully immunised

As it stands, a total of 156,927 people have been vaccinated in Bolton, of which 89,137 have been fully immunised

Ministers will be keeping a close eye on whether the rate in the over-60s rises rapidly or begin to translate into hospitalisations. 

It can take several weeks for people to fall severely ill with the disease after catching it.  

As it stands, a total of 156,927 people have been vaccinated in Bolton, of which 89,137 have been fully immunised.

Latest NHS England figures suggest 81 per cent of over-40s in Bolton have accepted their jab, which is on par with the national average. 

Ministers yesterday offered hope that England’s June 21 lockdown-easing plans were still able to go ahead because of fresh evidence that vaccines work against B.1.617.2.

No10’s official spokesperson said the optimism was based on daily figures, such as hospital admissions and testing rates. But they warned it could take time before the Government was confident that ‘freedom day’ can still go ahead as planned.

Kirklees had the fourth highest infection rate (73.4) after cases rose by 30 per cent in a week. The council has been identified as an ‘area of concern’ by public health authorities after cases of the Indian variant were identified there. Surge testing was launched in the area yesterday.

It was followed by Leicester (50), Hounslow (48.9), Manchester (44.1), Bury (42.9), North Tyneside (42.3) and Luton (42.2) which all have outbreaks of the Indian variant.

SAGE scientists have already warned there will be a third wave of the virus in the country, which was expected to hit as more restrictions were eased.

Professor Hayward said: ‘While I think we’ve always thought we would have another wave of Covid, the size of that wave is going to very much depend on how transmissible the variant that causes it is and what proportion of the population have been vaccinated when it hits.’

He added surge testing had been launched in hotspots in an attempt to halt the spread of the variant.

But that spiralling cases suggested it would become the main variant across the country — and displace the currently dominant Kent variant. 

‘But the scale of this is different (to other variants) and the number of places affected is different and the number of cases is different and the speed of increase is different,’ he said. 

‘So my hunch is that this is going to become the dominant strain across the country, maybe even across the world, and that you know that really brings it back down to this race against the vaccine and the virus except the virus just got faster.’ 

The Indian variant has already spread to at least 48 countries, figures show, and has been spotted on every continent except Antarctica.

It is now behind one in five infections in the UK and has spread to 40 per cent of local authorities in England.

But King’s College London experts say cases nationwide are still flat, and that outbreaks remain localised in areas such as Bolton and Blackburn.

Professor Spector said: ‘There has been no significant change in rates of Covid from last week according to ZOE Covid Study data. 

‘The number of daily new cases is around 2,750, which remains fairly low and virtually unchanged from last week. This shows that the Indian variant hasn’t altered the numbers significantly 

‘We’re monitoring the Indian variant closely and so far we see only localised outbreaks, or hotspots. 

‘Not only in Bedford and Bolton, which we saw a week ago, but our data shows Newport in Wales, Glasgow and neighbouring areas like East Dunbartonshire or Lanarkshire in Scotland, Aberdeen, Leeds and neighbouring authorities like Kirklees and Wakefield.

‘We noticed the same trend previously with outbreaks of the South African and Brazilian variants, but these remained local and didn’t translate into wider cases countrywide.’ 

He added: ‘There’s no clear evidence yet that the new Indian variant is significantly worse than the old Kent one. 

‘While the outbreaks remain localised and UK numbers are steady and most cases appear mild, it’s highly unlikely to cause the NHS to be overrun or stop us coming out of lockdown.

‘So no need to panic, but do stay vigilant and keep logging with the ZOE Covid Study app to stay ahead of the curve and help us monitor outbreaks like these.’

However, the Kent variant — which triggered Britain’s second wave — began in the South East before it rapidly spiralled out of control and hit every part of the country. 

The King’s College London estimates rely on daily reports from more than 700,000 Britons on whether they are feeling unwell, what symptoms they have and if they have tested positive for Covid.

But it is only able to pick up infections which trigger symptoms and misses asymptomatic cases — those which spark no tell tale signs of the virus — which officials estimate could be behind a third of all cases.

The app updated how its estimates are calculated last week because a large proportion of participants had already been vaccinated against the virus.

The Prime Minister told the 1922 committee last night, reports The Times, that he was confident the planned June 21 easing could still go ahead.

‘I know there are anxieties about new variants,’ he said. ‘But we can see nothing to suggest that we have to deviate from the roadmap.’

He added earlier in the day that there was ‘increasing confidence’ jabs are highly effective against all variants, including B.1.617.2. His comments are bolstered by the fact the emergence of the strain has not yet led to an uptick in hospital admissions or deaths. 

Scientists say the Indian variant may not be as transmissible as first feared because official data is beginning to hint the rise in cases of the mutant strain is slowing. 

They say the spike could be down to the virus spreading in multi-generational households, and people rushing home from India after the country was placed on the ‘red list’. 

Professor Carl Heneghan, the director of the Centre for Evidence-based Medicine at Oxford University, told the Telegraph: ‘How can it be the case that it is 40 per cent more transmissible when the numbers are falling off at the speed they are in India?

‘We could be looking at a founder effect (when a strain is repeatedly imported from another outbreak area) and where you’ve got a small number of people having a bigger impact.

‘India is actually looking more like the natural curve which happens in winter and has a high drop-off as opposed to flattening the curve.’

India’s cases have dropped by 27 per cent in a week. They recorded 267,334 on Tuesday, down from 348,421 cases at the same time last week. 

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Van-Tam said last night: ‘We have a credible range that goes from a few percent more transmissible through to… 50 per cent more transmissible. I think most people feel it is going to be somewhere in the middle, rather than at the extremes of that band.’ 

Top scientists handed information to ministers last night which put the situation ‘looking in better shape’, a senior Government official told Politico, although they were ‘obviously still waiting for more data’.

A health official added: ‘We are learning more about the variant almost every hour and the mood music has definitely improved’.

SAGE models warn Covid hospitalisations could spiral to more than 20,000 a day if the June easings went ahead and the strain was found to be 50 per cent more transmissible. Government advisers also warned a variant that is 30 per cent more transmissible than the Kent variant could pile more pressure on the NHS than it suffered during the first wave last spring.

The Prime Minister told MPs in the Commons yesterday that the jabs were also still fighting off the mutant strain, saying he had ‘increasing confidence that vaccines are effective against all variants, including the Indian variant’.

One senior minister told Sky News that Mr Johnson would ‘move heaven and earth’ in order to stick to the June 21 unlocking moment. 

Positive test figures from the Wellcome Sanger Institute – which cover only lab-analysed cases in the two weeks between April 25 and May 8 – reveal the mutant Indian strain made up 50 per cent or more of all samples in 23 parts of the country by last week. Bolton and Blackburn in the North West remain the worst-hit areas with almost 600 cases between them and the variant making up 81 per cent of infections

Positive test figures from the Wellcome Sanger Institute – which cover only lab-analysed cases in the two weeks between April 25 and May 8 – reveal the mutant Indian strain made up 50 per cent or more of all samples in 23 parts of the country by last week. Bolton and Blackburn in the North West remain the worst-hit areas with almost 600 cases between them and the variant making up 81 per cent of infections

While the Indian variant is spreading rapidly in pockets of the country, 60 per cent of local authorities in England have yet to record a case (shown in grey). But it is likely the variant has spread even further than the map suggests because the data only goes up to May 8. Experts have said they expect it to overtake the Kent strain and become dominant in the coming weeks and months

While the Indian variant is spreading rapidly in pockets of the country, 60 per cent of local authorities in England have yet to record a case (shown in grey). But it is likely the variant has spread even further than the map suggests because the data is 10 days out of date. Experts have said they expect it to overtake the Kent strain and become dominant in the coming weeks and months 

The above graph is based on Sanger Institute data on cases identified in the community. It shows that while the Kent variant (B.1.1.7) remains dominant in the country, infections with the Indian variant (B.1.617.2) are rising rapidly. In the week to April 24 it made up barely three per cent of all infections spotted, but by May 8 it was behind 27 per cent

The above graph is based on Sanger Institute data on cases identified in the community. It shows that while the Kent variant (B.1.1.7) remains dominant in the country, infections with the Indian variant (B.1.617.2) are rising rapidly. In the week to April 24 it made up barely three per cent of all infections spotted, but by May 8 it was behind 27 per cent

Officials say the Indian variant of Covid may have spread rapidly in the UK because it got into multi-generational households, and there were a large number of imports as people rushed home after India was added to the 'red list'

Officials say the Indian variant of Covid may have spread rapidly in the UK because it got into multi-generational households, and there were a large number of imports as people rushed home after India was added to the ‘red list’

Nearly 90% of 7,000 neighbourhoods in England and Wales saw NO Covid deaths in April 

England and Wales’ rapidly shrinking Covid outbreaks were today laid bare by an interactive map that showed nearly 90 per cent of more than 7,000 neighbourhoods saw no deaths from the virus last month.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data reveal April was the first month since August 2020 where the number of deaths was below the five-year average, with fewer than 1,000 virus-linked fatalities.

The overall death rate in England — 851.2 per 100,000 people — was the lowest rate for April since the ONS started recording mortality rates in 2001. 

MailOnline analysis shows the proportion of English and Welsh neighbourhoods with zero deaths increased from 57.9 per cent in March to 87.6 per cent last month — some 6,301 areas.

Just ten areas saw three deaths each, which was the highest amount for any postcode. 

They were: Hounslow West in London, Summerfield in Birmingham, Woodthorpe and Arno Vale in Gedling, Great Sankey in Warrington, Birley in Sheffield, Stornton and Sixfields in Northampton, Grimsargh and Goosnargh in Preston, Rusper, Faygate and Leechpool in Horsham, Bridlington West in East Riding and Canvey Island South West in Castle Point.

The ONS data also revealed that Covid was just the ninth leading cause of death in England last month — its lowest ranking since September 2020. Heart disease and dementia were the leading killers.

A total of 941 deaths were due to coronavirus in April, the equivalent of 2.4 per cent of all deaths registered in England. Another 35 were recorded in Wales. 

Deaths have plunged over the past few months because of both strict lockdown restrictions and the mammoth vaccination drive, which has seen almost 37million adults jabbed.

Another added it would be politically ‘very bad’ to miss the deadline. ‘We told people in December the vaccine would be our way out of this and this would be our final heave,’ they said. ‘To go back on that would be very difficult.’

While cases of the new strain have quadrupled in the last fortnight in Britain, hospitalisations of people with Covid have remained ‘fairly flat’ compared to previous spikes. Covid deaths are now averaging around eight a day.

Top experts say this is a key signal that the vaccines are working. Clinical studies showed they were up to 100 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisations and deaths with the virus.

Official data shows cases of the strain are also concentrated in younger age groups, which have yet to be offered the Covid vaccine.

In hotspot for the Indian strain Bolton, the vast majority of patients in hospital suffering from the virus did not get their Covid vaccines despite being eligible.

The Health Secretary urged Britons to keep coming forward for their jabs yesterday, saying it was the best way to get out of the pandemic. 

He said: ‘This is on all of us, we are masters of our own fate. We are seeing the vast majority of cases, both of the existing variant and of the B.1.617.2 variant, amongst younger groups and unvaccinated people.

He added: ‘On the one hand hand that is actually a good sign as it implies the vaccine is working effectively, but obviously we don’t want to see a huge increase in the number of cases everywhere.’ 

Vaccines are turning the tide against this pandemic and I’m incredibly proud the UK has one of the highest uptake rates in the world, with 90 per cent of people saying that they have had or will have the jab.

‘Strong evidence shows the vaccines protect you and your loved ones from serious illness, and they also reduce transmission, which is why we’ve introduced additional surge measures in the areas with rising cases of the variant first identified in India,’ Mr Hancock said.

He added: ‘Thank you to everybody who has come forward so far – we can beat this virus together if we all play our part and get the jab as soon as we’re eligible.’

Professor Ferguson said yesterday the spike in cases in the North West may be down to infections spreading rapidly in large, multi-generational households in densely populated areas.

‘There’s a glimmer of hope from the recent data that while the virus does appear to have a significant growth advantage, the magnitude of that advantage seems to have dropped a lot.’ 

His comments were echoed by deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who described Britain’s situation as a ‘straight race’ between the vaccination programme and the new strain. He added: ‘The NHS is doing everything it can to turbo-boost that, and that is the challenge that’s ahead of us in the next two to three to four weeks, to make sure that we outrun the virus through really vigorous pull-through on vaccine delivery.’ 

Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are up to 90 per cent effective against symptomatic Covid 

Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are up to 90 per cent effective against symptomatic Covid, according to official estimates.

Public Health England monitored more than 50,000 people who had received two shots of the Oxford-made vaccine for the study.

They found almost nine in ten did not develop symptomatic Covid. For comparison, nine in ten of those who got the Pfizer jab also did not develop symptomatic Covid.

Britain has relied on both jabs for its vaccines roll-out since December, which has covered more than 37million people, or 70 per cent of adults.

The medical regulator says 23.9million first doses and 9million second doses of the AstraZeneca jab had been dished out by May 12.

A further 11.7million first and 9.9million second shots of the Pfizer jab had also been administered by this time.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi hailed the data as highlighting the ‘incredible impact’ both doses had.

PHE warned their figures were primarily based on older adults, who were first in line to get both doses because they are most at risk of hospitalisation and death if they catch the virus.

It gave no figures for how effective the AstraZeneca jab was at preventing hospitalisation and death sparked by the virus after two doses.

But in clinical trials involving almost 25,000 people the shot was found to be 100 per cent effective at stopping these from happening.

Pfizer’s vaccine was 90 to 95 per cent effective at stopping Covid hospitalisations and 95 to 99 per cent effective at stopping death in the community, PHE said.

Their scientists also found there was a small reduction in vaccine effectiveness 10 weeks after the second jab for Pfizer recipients. But there was no change for those who got AstraZeneca’s jab.

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