The UK today announced 39,036 more cases of coronavirus and 574 deaths as the country heads towards the majority of the population being in Tier Three or Four lockdown from Boxing Day.
Infections announced today are up by 37 per cent on the 28,507 confirmed last Friday and deaths have risen by 17 per cent on last week’s 489 as the second wave surges on in spite of November’s lockdown.
A raft of statistics show that explosions of cases in London, the South East and the East of England are tugging England towards its highest ever infection rates driven by the new super-infectious variant of the virus that was discovered in Kent and revealed by ministers last week.
It comes as separate data from Public Health England showed the vast majority of local authorities in England saw infections rise in the last week, with the biggest jumps in Tier 1 and 2 areas.
Some 85 per cent of local authorities in England saw Covid-19 cases rise in the week before Christmas, with the biggest surges in Tier One and Tier Two areas.
Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report revealed four fifths – or 126 out of 149 – councils saw an uptick in infections, with seven even seeing their Covid-19 infection rates double.
The biggest jumps were all in Tier One areas – by 320 per cent in the Isle of Wight, 116 per cent in Cornwall and 114 per cent in Herefordshire, although these had lower rates of cases per person to begin with, meaning the rises by actual numbers were smaller.
Covid-19 cases also more than doubled in Tier Two York and Southampton and, in areas that now have the harshest Tier Four measures, Southend-on-Sea and the London borough of Islington.
The resurgence of the virus across the country may be a warning sign that Tier Three restrictions – with shops and gyms allowed to stay open – are not enough to curb the spread of the mutant Kent strain, according to officials.
Early analysis by Public Health England officials at Porton Down has revealed the variant may be 56 per cent more infectious, but there is no evidence to suggest it is more deadly to humans.
Positive rates of coronavirus test results, counted as a proportion per 100,000 people, rose in 126 out of 149 parts of England last week, Public Health England figures show
COVID-19 INFECTION RATE SURGES OVER TWO WEEKS TO DECEMBER 20
Yorkshire and the Humber
Across London’s 32 boroughs the Covid-19 infection rate has tripled in two weeks, surging from 200.3 to 602.2 per 100,000 residents – after the mutant Kent strain became established in the region.
Infections jumped by almost 190 per cent in the East of England and 127 per cent in the South East over the two weeks before Christmas, where the variant has also become established.
Thurrock, in Essex, became England’s coronavirus hotspot in the week before Christmas, according to the report, when infections surged by 73 per cent to 1198.8 per 100,000.
The London borough of Havering had the second highest rate, after it surged by 50 per cent in a week to 1111.2 per 100,000, and London borough of Redbridge had the third highest after a 60 per cent spike to 991.4 per 100,000.
In the fifth where Covid-19 cases fell, none were in the South of England.
The sharpest dip was recorded in Rutland, by 32.7 per cent to 92.7 per 100,000, Wigan outside Manchester, by 17.5 per cent to 144.5 per 100,000, and Redcar and Cleveland by 15.9 per cent at 119.6 per 100,000.
Covid-19 infections surged across all age groups, the report revealed, including by 42 per cent in the over 60s – who are most at risk of being hospitalised and death if they catch the virus. In the last seven days the rate in this age group jumped up from 133.6 to 189.4 per 100,000.
Torbay, in Devon, had the lowest infection rate in the country at 94 per 100,000 – although this was a rise of 94 per cent compared to the previous week.
It was followed by Cornwall – which was in Tier One – at 74.3 per 100,000, and Dorset, at 83.6 per 100,000.
Covid-19 infections surged across all age groups, the report revealed, including by 42 per cent in the over 60s – who are most at risk of being hospitalised and death if they catch the virus.
In the seven days to December 20 the rate in this group surged from 133.6 to 189.4 per 100,000.
In the over 80s – who are also at high risk from the virus – the infection rate rose by 10 per cent from 234.6 to 258.1 per 100,000 in the last week before Christmas.
The outbreak appears to be being driven by those aged between 30 and 39, who have the highest rate of infection at 434.6 per 100,000.
The London School of Hygiene study claimed that only doing 2million vaccinations per week from January while the entire country is in a Tier 4 lockdown for a month would be enough to stop the coronavirus death toll doubling in the next six months. In a scenario with a Tier 4 lockdown in January, including the closure of schools, and the current rate of vaccination, they estimated that around 85,000 people would die by July. If the rate of vaccination increased 10-fold this could be reduced to 35,000
Hospital admissions will also surge to levels higher than seen throughout the entire of this year within the first six months of 2021, the terrifying predictions showed. In a scenario with a Tier 4 lockdown in January, including the closure of schools, and the current rate of vaccination, they estimated that 335,000 people would need hospital treatment for Covid-19 by the end of June. If the rate of vaccination increased 10-fold this could be reduced to 147,000
The number of people with coronavirus in England last week spiked to pre-second lockdown levels with almost 646,000 people carrying the illness
The positivity rate of tests taken in the community – pillar two – was also highest in London, by 16.1 per cent, suggesting that the capital’s outbreak may be far larger than has previously been suggested.
Public Health England’s medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle warned the figures meant this would ‘not be a normal Christmas for any of us’.
CORONAVIRUS BACK TO PRE-LOCKDOWN LEVELS DUE TO SPIKES IN LONDON, EAST AND SOUTH-EAST ENGLAND
The number of people with coronavirus in England last week spiked to pre-second lockdown levels with almost 646,000 people carrying the illness, official figures show, but they are only rising in the south of the country.
An Office for National Statistics report today estimated that 645,800 Brits were infected with the coronavirus between December 12 and December 18, the equivalent of one in 85 people, up from 570,000 the week before.
It marked a 14 per cent rise from last week’s figure and a 34 per cent jump from a fortnight ago, when the autumn lockdown ended in the first week of December.
Half of all new cases were the caused by the highly-infectious mutant variant of the virus that emerged in the South East of England in September, according to the ONS.
Its report found that London had become the country’s Covid-19 hotspot in the most recent week, with one in 45 Londoners carrying the disease by December 18. Just a day later Boris Johnson scrapped Christmas mixing plans for people living in the capital, which led to thousands fleeing London that evening to lower tiered parts of the country.
There are now fears the mass exodus may have helped spread the new strain – thought to be at least 50 per cent more infectious than regular Covid – around the country.
The ONS report suggests England’s Covid crisis is being driven by London, the East and the South East, where there are higher rates of the new strain of the virus.
About two-thirds of people testing positive in these areas could have the new variant, the ONS said. Every other English region has seen cases fall in the most recent week.
‘If you are seeing loved ones, try to keep your distance, wash your hands thoroughly and more often and ventilate as much as possible,’ she said. ‘By continuing to reduce your contacts you can help to slow the spread.’
It comes after SAGE advisers warned yesterday that Britain needs to speed up the roll out of the vaccination to a staggering two million jabs per week and have a Tier Four lockdown throughout January in order to prevent the new fast-spreading strain of coronavirus doubling the death toll next year.
In terrifying predictions published last night, researchers who advise the Government said they think the new variant, discovered in Kent and revealed by ministers last week, is 56 per cent more infectious than its predecessor and 83,000 more could die if people don’t get vaccinated faster than they are now.
Ministers will have to rush out two million doses of vaccines every week – six times the current rate of approximately 350,000 per week – if they want to avoid disaster in the new year. Boris Johnson today said almost 800,000 people have been vaccinated in Britain since December 8, with NHS data showing at least 522,000 in England.
A full Tier Four lockdown with schools closed across the whole country throughout January, along with the astonishing rate of immunisation, could be the only way to stop the next six months’ death toll being higher than the entire of 2020’s. And even the best case scenario could still see another 35,700 people die of Covid-19.
They said that although there’s no proof the variant is more deadly, the fact that it spreads faster means it will trigger significantly more cases and deaths will inevitably increase.
One of the leading authors on the paper, Professor Nick Davies, a mathematician at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: ‘Without effective control policies, rapid surges are predicted and the burden in the first six months of 2021 may be greater than what was seen in 2020.’
As many as 83,300 people could die within the next six months if the Government holds a Tier Four lockdown in January but continues vaccinating at the current speed, the experts from the London School of Hygiene (LSHTM) warned. This would be more than the 70,000 people who have died of Covid in total throughout all of 2020.
The death tally could be slashed by 45,000 to just 35,700, however, if the rate of immunisation rockets to two million doses per week.
Regulators are expected to approve Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s vaccine early next week. There are more than four million doses of this ready to go in the UK and it could rapidly scale up the immunisation programme, which has so far vaccinated just over half a million people since it started on December 8.
People living in some regions where the new strain of the virus hasn’t yet taken hold could be spared from the effects of the faster-spreading virus if vaccines are rapid and lockdowns strict, the researchers said, but there don’t appear to be any measures strong enough to stop it causing more hospital admissions and deaths in the South of England.
It comes as Office for National Statistics estimates published today suggest the number of people carrying the coronavirus is now back to pre-lockdown levels, with around 646,000 people infected last week, up from 567,000 the week before. This is being driven by London, the East and South East, with cases falling in the North and Midlands.