England has reported nine more Covid-19 deaths and Wales has reported one, taking the UK’s total to 41,511.
No additional fatalities have been recorded in Scotland or Northern Ireland, as they move towards a whole week without any deaths.
The Department of Health are yet to disclose the official death tally for the past 24 hours, which may be higher or lower than the preliminary toll.
The early count for England only includes victims who succumbed to the illness in hospitals. But the other home nations’ counts include other settings, such as care homes.
NHS England said nine more people in its hospitals had died of Covid-19 between August 6 and yesterday, August 31.
Yesterday a further 1,406 people were diagnosed with the pandemic virus as case numbers surge to their highest levels since the start of June.
Scotland is reporting record high new cases – 154 today and 160 yesterday – in three months which are related to clusters and not large outbreaks.
It comes as schools open their gates to pupils again, with parents trying to socially distance as they queued up outside this morning.
In other coronavirus developments today;
- Millions of pupils in England are returning to school for the first time since March, as two new studies reveal children are six times less likely to spread the coronavirus than adults, and are more likely to die in an accident than of Covid-19;
- Most people who have been added to the free flu jab programme won’t get their jab until December despite the Government drive to widen the scheme to take the pressure of the NHS this winter;
- The World Health Organisation Europe director has warned schools reopening and flu season could mean a surge in Covid-19 patients will pile pressure back on hospitals this winter;
- AstraZeneca begins final trials of Oxford University coronavirus vaccine enrolling 50,000 people worldwide and 30,000 in the US as company signs £15million manufacturing deal.
Deaths being announced each day by the Department of Health have tumbled since the peak of Britain’s Covid-19 crisis, with more than 1,000 patients killed some days in April.
And although the numbers of coronavirus cases is rising again there is no evidence of this leading to more people ending up in hospital or dying, as had been feared.
Experts suggest that cases are now being picked up more often in younger people, who almost never die of the disease, and that hospitals are now better at treating Covid-19 than they were at the start of the pandemic.
However, a member of SAGE said last week that there may be a delayed uptick in hospitalisations and deaths in the coming weeks if younger adults pass the virus onto older relatives.
The most up-to-date government coronavirus death toll — released yesterday afternoon — stood at 41,501. It takes into account victims who have died within 28 days of testing positive.
The deaths data does not represent how many Covid-19 patients died within the last 24 hours. It is only how many fatalities have been reported and registered with the authorities.
And the figure does not always match updates provided by the home nations. Department of Health officials work off a different time cut-off, meaning daily updates from Scotland and Northern Ireland are out of sync.
The toll announced by NHS England every day, which only takes into account fatalities in hospitals, doesn’t match up with the DH figures because they work off a different recording system.
For instance, some deaths announced by NHS England bosses will have already been counted by the Department of Health, which records fatalities ‘as soon as they are available’.
Health officials in Northern Ireland said there have been no new Covid-19 deaths for the fifth day in a row, with the toll standing at 560,
No new coronavirus deaths have been reported in Scotland in the last 24 hours, the latest Scottish Government figures show.
It means Scotland’s death figure has stood at 2,494 for six days in a row.
However, cases have been creeping up to record figures since May, with 154 discovered in the past 24 hours.
The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday she feels ‘a greater sense of anxiety today’ than at any time ‘probably for the last couple of months’.
Today millions of pupils in England return to school for the first time in almost six months, but will be faced with strict new rules to control the spread of the coronavirus.
But two studies revealed today should reassure parents that their child will be safe from the virus, after months of fiery debate between ministers and teachers’ unions.
One study found that children in the UK under the age of 10 years old are almost 20 times more likely to die from an accidental injury than of Covid-19.
Scientists led by Newcastle University also found under-10s are twice as likely to die from flu than they are from the coronavirus.
When looking at the risk of Covid-19 deaths in those between the ages of 10 and 19, it was three times lower than the risk of dying from an injury.
However, Covid-19 deaths were estimated to be four times higher than flu in that group, the study found. This showed people should not ignore the coronavirus completely and should still be cautious, the researchers said.
A small number of Covid-19 deaths were among children in the UK – 12 in the 10-19 age group and three in the under-10 age group.
Most of these children would have had underlying health conditions, research has shown, which make them more vulnerable to serious illness.
Another study revealed today that children are six times less likely to spread coronavirus than adults.
The research tracked how the coronavirus spread in a group of 1,900 people, mostly children, who spent five weeks at summer camps in Spain.
They were mixing in similar situations to schools but spent most of their time outdoors and not in classrooms, the researchers in Barcelona said.
Swab testing every week found 30 infected children passed the virus on to just 12 others, despite having more than 250 close contacts in their ‘bubble’.
The children’s R rate – the number of people an infected person transmits the virus to – was 0.3. In comparison, the R rate of the local area was 1.7 to 2, meaning the children were six times less infectious than the general population.
However, the reopening of schools and the winter flu season returning could mean Covid-19 patients pile the pressure on NHS hospitals again, a World Health Organization director has warned.
Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO’s Europe chief, said he ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if hospital admissions surged this November to levels seen during the worst days of the pandemic.
Speaking on the Radio 4 Today programme, he warned Britain was facing ‘three phenomena’ in the colder months on top of coronavirus – including children picking up the disease at school, an uptick in influenza cases and excess deaths among elderly people.
It comes as Government documents reveal most people won’t get the flu jab until December despite a Government drive to get everyone vaccinated to protect the NHS this winter.
But top scientists today have criticised the ‘alarmist’ view that schools could be breeding grounds for the virus, saying there is no evidence to back it up.
Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-based Medicine, called for the Government to put out clear and concise messaging that schools were very safe.
Writing in the Daily Mail today, he said: ‘We need to reassure parents that it’s safe for children to return to school this week.
‘School-age pupils are the least likely to display any Covid-19 symptoms, and it will be a tragedy if they are denied the chance to restart their education by ill-founded fears.
‘We need our children to be smarter than ourselves to ensure we do not repeat the mistakes of our current generation – we need them to be in class.
‘The alarmists will say that such asymptomatic people are just as likely to spread the coronavirus – and are perhaps even more dangerous, because they don’t know they have it. That fear simply is not borne out by the experience of the past six months.’
Professor Heneghan also rubbished talks of a second wave and said anyone who believed there was a resurgence was misinterpreting the data.
He added: ‘Don’t be misled, as so many people are, by the rise in infections nationally.
‘On Sunday, 1,715 people across Britain tested positive for Covid-19, the most since early June. It’s easy to misinterpret that data and to assume that we’re in the grip of the feared ‘second wave’.
‘We are not. There is currently no second wave. What we are seeing is a sharp rise in the number of healthy people who are carrying the virus, but exhibiting no symptoms.
‘Almost all of them are young. They are being spotted because – finally – a comprehensive system of national test and trace is in place.’
‘And while young people might have an infection, they appear well and healthy, not showing any symptoms.’
Officials have already been planning ahead for a potential second wave, and have been organising the biggest ever flu vaccination programme for the UK.
The Government pledged to reach 30million people including everyone over the age of 50 and 11-year-olds.
The plan was to cover more of the at-risk groups so that fewer people get seriously ill with the seasonal flu, which will relieve pressure on hospitals that are in danger of facing a resurgence of Covid-19 cases this winter.
But leaked documents, seen by The Telegraph, reveal services aim to ‘extend the vaccine programme in November and December to include the 50-64 year old age group’.
It is recommended to get the flu jab in the autumn before flu starts circulating, therefore millions could be at risk of catching it before they can get vaccinated.
The documents say healthy patients aged 50 to 64 may not receive the jab at all, despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock boasting that the UK had ‘the biggest flu jab programme ever this autumn’.
The vaccinations ‘might’ be offered ‘following prioritisation of other eligible groups and subject to vaccine supply’.
Last year 15million people in England were vaccinated, but this was less than half of eligible people. It suggests if everyone in these groups took up their free jab this year, there would not be enough for additional people.
Increased flu vaccinations are planned to help reduce pressure on the NHS this winter by preventing flu-sickness which can cause hospitalisation and even death.