Freedom Day will cause ‘mad’ spike in Covid cases, scientists fear


Lifting lockdown restrictions in England today in the face of soaring cases will cause a ‘mad’ spike that could see ‘tens of thousands’ more people die in the coming months, top scientists have warned.

Nationally, there are currently 45,000 new infections every day across Britain on average and the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) expects this to reach at least 100,000 in August or September.

The UK posted 54,000 cases on Saturday and 47,000 on Sunday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, giving it the highest number of cases of anywhere in the world over the weekend. 

Professor Lockdown Neil Ferguson — whose frightening modelling of the first wave spooked ministers into the initial shutdown — has warned that daily cases could rise to 250,000 this autumn, which would dwarf the 68,000 at the height of the second wave in January. 

Experts, including one of the Government’s own advisers, said it was ‘murderous’ to go through with Freedom Day in England today despite surging infections.

SAGE member Professor Andrew Hayward, from University College London, claimed that if the public abuse their new freedoms then ‘tens of thousands’ more people could die in the coming months. 

The epidemiologist told Sky News: ‘We are heading into the biggest wave of Covid infection that we have ever seen and, even though the vaccine will substantially reduce the number of deaths and hospitalisations, it’s still likely that we will see somewhere in the low tens of thousands of deaths even if we are cautious.

Meanwhile, just 100,000 people in England are living in areas where there were virtually no new Covid cases last week, according to MailOnline analysis which lays bare how the Indian variant has engulfed every corner of the country. 

Department of Health data shows only 11 out of 6,792 neighbourhoods (0.2 per cent) had three or less new infections in the week ending July 13, compared to more than 1,000 in March before the Delta strain took off. 

The Government suppresses numbers when they drop below three to conceal the identities of infected residents who could be singled out.

Almost half (3,065) of English neighbourhoods are recording more cases per 100,000 than the UK average of 376 and more than 500 places are seeing double that number. Nearly 150 areas have ‘extraordinarily’ high rates of above 1,000 per 100,000.   

JULY 13

HOW CASE RATES HAVE CHANGED IN THE UK FROM MAY 4 (LEFT) TO JULY 13 (RIGHT): Britain has quickly become an epicentre of the pandemic since May after the Indian variant was seeded in the country. Yellow areas show places which have an infection rate between 0 and 9 per 100,000; green shows rates between 10 and 49; blue is 50 to 99; dark blue represents 200 to 399; purple equates to a rate of between 400 and 799; black shows the worst-hit regions with rates above 800 per 100,000

Nationally, there are currently 45,000 new infections every day across Britain on average and the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) expects this to reach at least 100,000 in August or September

Nationally, there are currently 45,000 new infections every day across Britain on average and the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) expects this to reach at least 100,000 in August or September

Infections are currently running at about 45,000 a day (yellow line shows cases increasing since May) but deaths are still flat at about 40 a day (pink line shows fatalities in the third wave). For comparison, the last time cases hit this level when the second wave began to spiral out of control (orange line) there were more than 600 daily deaths

Infections are currently running at about 45,000 a day (yellow line shows cases increasing since May) but deaths are still flat at about 40 a day (pink line shows fatalities in the third wave). For comparison, the last time cases hit this level when the second wave began to spiral out of control (orange line) there were more than 600 daily deaths

 

 

Revellers get back on the dancefloor at Powerhouse nightclub in Newcastle at the stroke of midnight, wasting no time to enjoy their first taste of clubbing since last March

Travellers on the Tube in London today as the loosening of restrictions takes effect across England

Travellers on the Tube in London today as the loosening of restrictions takes effect across England

Shoppers in a London Tesco not wearing masks today. All the major supermarkets are asking customers to continue doing so

Shoppers in a London Tesco not wearing masks today. All the major supermarkets are asking customers to continue doing so 

‘And that could move into the mid and high tens of thousands of deaths if we just went back to normal activity.’

Professor Gabriel Scally, a public health expert at the University of Bristol, told MailOnline that opening England today was ‘madness’.

He said: ‘You don’t need a crystal ball to guess what’s going to happen here, we’ve seen over the past few weeks what direction we’re heading in as a country. 

…but the Covid death rate is still 16 TIMES lower than it was during the first and second waves

Britain’s Covid death rate is now 16 times lower than it was during both the first and second waves because of vaccines, analysis shows. 

Infections are currently running at about 45,000 a day across Britain, with 40 deaths being registered every 24 hours on average.

But the last time cases hit this level — when the second wave began to spiral out of control in late December — there were as many as 640 daily fatalities.  

One of the Oxford University researchers who helped design AstraZeneca’s jab today credited the vaccines for keeping the death rate so low. Sir Andrew Pollard warned deaths would inevitably rise over the coming weeks in line with cases but insisted that they won’t reach levels seen during the darkest days of January’s peak.

Experts have warned today’s Freedom Day will only cause infections to spiral further, although the hot weather and school holidays should help stem the spread of the virus. 

‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, a key member of SAGE, yesterday warned that infections may hit 200,000 a day in the coming weeks.  

He admitted he would consider the final loosening of restrictions a success if cases stayed below half this level, and daily hospitalisations peak at around 1,000. But the Imperial College London epidemiologist said No10’s top experts were clueless as to just how bad the crisis could become. 

‘The UK has had the highest number of cases in the world on some days and for weeks has had more infections than the rest of Western Europe put together… I was in a briefing the other day and someone described it [Freedom Day] as being murderous. 

‘All it [Freedom Day] will do is accelerate the epidemic further, I think it’s madness, it’s an extraordinary decision to do it now.’ 

However, other experts have said they expect infections to start falling next week through a combination of natural and vaccine-acquired immunity. 

Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, tweeted today: ‘Looking at the recent data, it looks like we will see continued exponential growth in cases for the first part of next week. 

‘But sometime Thursday to Sunday should see this slowing and maybe even some decline in numbers but that maybe hoping for too much.’

In another glimmer of hope, Britain’s Covid death rate is now 16 times lower than it was during both the first and second waves because of vaccines. 

Infections are currently running at about 45,000 a day across Britain, with 40 deaths being registered every 24 hours on average.

But the last time cases hit this level — when the second wave began to spiral out of control in late December — there were as many as 640 daily fatalities.  

One of the Oxford University researchers who helped design AstraZeneca’s jab today credited the vaccines for keeping the death rate so low. 

Sir Andrew Pollard warned deaths would inevitably rise over the coming weeks in line with cases but insisted that they won’t reach levels seen during the darkest days of January’s peak.

Experts have warned today’s Freedom Day will only cause infections to spiral further, although the hot weather and school holidays should help stem the spread of the virus. 

‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, a key member of SAGE, yesterday warned that infections may hit 200,000 a day in the coming weeks.  

He admitted he would consider the final loosening of restrictions a success if cases stayed below half this level, and daily hospitalisations peak at around 1,000. But the Imperial College London epidemiologist said No10’s top experts were clueless as to just how bad the crisis could become. 

Department of Health data shows hospitalisations are currently more than four times below the level they hit when Covid was rife during December. 

There are 614 admissions a day on average across Britain, compared to 2,800 on December 28 when cases also stood at almost 50,000. 

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard  said it was thanks to the vaccines that deaths had plunged to far lower levels

But 'Professor Lockdown' and top SAGE adviser Neil Ferguson warned they were likely to tick upwards in the coming weeks. He said easing restrictions would be a success if cases remained below 100,000

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard (left) said it was thanks to the vaccines that deaths had plunged to far lower levels. But ‘Professor Lockdown’ and top SAGE adviser Neil Ferguson (right) warned they were likely to tick upwards in the coming weeks. He said easing restrictions would be a success if cases remained below 100,000

‘Professor Lockdown’ says Britain might have to shut down again in months

One of the UK’s top epidemiologists refused to rule out a new lockdown before Christmas yesterday.

Speaking ahead of restrictions being eased in England, Professor Neil Ferguson said he ‘can’t be certain’ whether the country will need to reimpose restrictions again this winter.

But the SAGE adviser admitted that in a worst-case scenario ‘there may be a need to basically slow spread to some extent’ to ease pressure on the NHS

But appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said that it was possible 2,000 people would be hospitalised a day, and 200,000 new daily cases.

He also warned, however, that it would be three weeks before the impact of Freedom Day is known. 

Prof Ferguson said: ‘We’ll know it’s worked when case numbers plateau and start going down, we know then hospitalisations and deaths will take some more weeks.

‘The best projections suggest that could happen any time from, really, mid-August to mid-September. So, we will have to be patient.

‘It’ll also take us three weeks before we know the effect of Monday, of relaxing restrictions, and what that will do to case numbers. So, it’s going to be quite a period of time.’ 

Deaths and hospitalisations lag several weeks behind cases, which are the first warning sign that the UK could run into trouble. 

But evidence shows the current surge is not leading the NHS to face as serious pressure as it did during the first and second waves because of vaccines. 

Many of the hospital admissions are in younger or vaccinated people which means their illness is often more mild – and their hospital stay shorter – than in previous waves.

SAGE does not expect hospital capacity to reach the 36,000 peak seen in January, and probably no more than half that, even in a worst-case scenario. 

However, Professor Ferguson admitted that even large levels of daily admissions could cause ‘major disruption’ to the NHS, forcing hospital bosses to cancel thousands of vital operations. 

Office for National Statistics data shows deaths are running five per cent below the five-year average, with Covid behind around just one per cent of all fatalities. 

For comparison, at the height of the second wave the virus was linked to more than 40 per cent of all deaths. 

Sir Andrew, the director of the Oxford vaccine group, said death rates from Covid will remain low because of the jabs.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The effectiveness of vaccines against severe disease and hospitalisation and death remains extremely high against the variants which are around here in the UK.

‘I think with that information, we can be very confident that the rates will remain low — but they are going to rise, and we know that.

‘The modelling predicts that there will be an increase in cases as we have been hearing over the last few days.

‘Of course we’re seeing it, that there are more people getting infected, and that will unfortunately translate into an increase in hospitalisations and deaths.

‘But it will be far lower than we have experienced in previous waves.’

More than 45.2million Britons — or 87.9 per cent of adults — have got one dose, while 35.9million — or 68.3 per cent — have received both jabs.

Britain’s roll-out has relied on the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, both of which are highly effective at preventing severe disease and death. 

The Prime Minister ordered the lifting of the remaining restrictions in England today, after warnings from ministers this could lead to cases spiralling to 100,000 a day.

But experts say the ‘real question now’ is whether they will surge to double this number and hit 200,000 a day.

It is thought the bout of warm weather — allowing people to socialise outdoors — and the school holidays will help keep surging infections at bay.

Cases have already started to fall in the country’s hotspot of South Tyneside, raising hopes that the end may be in sight for the worst-hit areas. 

Professor Ferguson told Andrew Marr yesterday: ‘Success would be keeping hospitalisations at around 1,000 and case numbers, maybe peaking a little over 100,000 a day and then slowly declining.’

But he said: ‘It is likely to be a slow decline because we will be seeing contract rates increase with this relaxation, and yet we’re still vaccinating people, people are getting immunity through being infected as well.

‘We have the relaxation on Monday, but significantly we also have school holidays. 

‘We’ve seen a lot of transmission among teenagers, and those contact rates will probably tick down.’

It comes as Mr Johnson and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak spend the first day of freedom in self-isolation after being exposed to a top minister who had the virus.

The pair were forced into a humiliating U-turn yesterday, after announcing they would not be taking advantage of a Government scheme that would allow them to replace self-isolation with daily lateral flow tests.

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