Britain today recorded 16 more coronavirus deaths as Scotland’s six-week run of no fatalities was ended with the announcement of two new victims.
Government figures show ten people are succumbing to the life-threatening illness each, on average — a figure that has barely changed in a month despite cases having almost doubled in the same time-frame.
Sixteen deaths were also announced yesterday and last Wednesday. More than 1,000 daily fatalities were posted nine times during the darkest spell of the outbreak in April. The current death toll stands at 41,465.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the two deaths announced today were the first since July 16, while Wales also recorded its first victim in almost a week.
Statistics today also revealed that cases are still creeping up, with 1,048 more Britons confirmed to have Covid-19. It means the rolling seven-day average has risen for the fifth day in a row to 1,090.
In other coronavirus developments in Britain today:
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.
The most up-to-date government coronavirus death toll — released yesterday afternoon — stood at 41,449. It takes into account victims who have died within 28 days of testing positive.
Ministers earlier this month scrapped the original fatality count because of concerns it was inaccurate due to it not having a time cut-off, meaning no-one could ever technically recover in England.
More than 5,000 deaths were knocked off the original toll. The rolling average number of daily coronavirus deaths dropped drastically — from around 60 to fewer than ten.
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’.
Nicola Sturgeon today announced another two more confirmed coronavirus patients have died in Scotland — the first victims since July 16. They take Scotland’s death toll to 2,494.
Department of Health officials also declare new Covid-19 cases every afternoon. Yesterday they revealed another 1,184 Britons had tested positive for the life-threatening disease.
It means around 1,056 people are being diagnosed with the disease each day. For comparison, fewer than 550 cases were being recorded each day, on average, at the start of July.
The spike in cases — alongside a resurgence of the virus in Europe — prompted fears of a second wave. But top experts have insisted the rise is merely down to more testing in badly-hit areas.
It comes after separate government figures yesterday revealed more people are dying than expected in England and Wales for the first time in two months.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed 9,392 fatalities were recorded between August 8 and August 14 – around 300 more than average for that time of year.
But experts have blamed Britain’s 10-day heatwave, which saw temperatures soar to 96°F (35.7°C), for the spike in deaths because the number of Covid-19 victims dropped once again.
Only 139 deaths were blamed on the coronavirus over the seven-day spell, the lowest weekly toll since before the lockdown was imposed on March 23.
For comparison, deaths from flu and pneumonia were seven times as common – with the illnesses mentioned on 1,002 death certificates during the same week.
In other developments to Britain’s coronavirus crisis today, more than 20 of the UK’s biggest employers said they have no plans to imminently bring all staff back to the office full-time.
A study found this week that British workers are the most reluctant in the whole of Europe to return because of fears of a second wave of coronavirus.
Employers are currently hamstrung by social distancing restrictions which leaves many unable to fit everyone in, and even if they do, some staff may not feel comfortable returning until a vaccine has been found.
This has now been followed by a survey of dozens of major businesses, in which 24 of the 50 asked by the BBC admitted not having any plans in place to get back to the office. None were named in the research.
Accounting and consultancy firm PwC said a ‘crowd mentality’ was seeing staff begin to trickle back to work, but economists have warned a more widescale return is likely to be an ‘uphill struggle’.
Teachers today warned Boris Johnson his face masks U-turn risks creating chaos in schools amid fears pupils will bully each other over their choice of covering.
The Government last night announced that face masks will be compulsory in the communal areas of secondary schools in parts of England which are subject to local lockdowns.
Meanwhile, a decision on whether to wear face masks in non-lockdown area schools will be left to individual head teachers.
The change in policy came after days of ministers and Downing Street insisting there were no plans to change the guidance in England which had said masks were not necessary if all other hygiene measures were adhered to.
But Mr Johnson’s hand appeared to be forced after Nicola Sturgeon said secondary school pupils in Scotland will be required to wear a mask when travelling between lessons.
The timing of the U-turn has prompted anger — schools in England are due to reopen next week — with teachers warning the wearing of masks could cause ‘mayhem’.
They have cited fears of bullying, of pupils wearing dirty reused masks and of it being harder to challenge bad behaviour in corridors because it may be unclear which children are responsible.
Teachers also said they had been left ‘dizzy from all of the U-turns that have happened this summer’. The eleventh-hour change in tack followed new advice from the World Health Organisation at the weekend.
Gavin Williamson today insisted he did not force the boss of exam regulator Ofqual to resign in the wake of the Government’s A-level and GCSE results debacle.
Sally Collier quit her role as chief regulator yesterday and Mr Williamson has denied that he made her carry the can for the exam chaos.
Meanwhile, the Education Secretary suggested he had never considered quitting his own role despite widespread calls for him to step down over his handling of the row.