Another 1,441 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Britain in the biggest one-day jump for two months – but three separate batches of data released today showed the outbreak is under control.
Department of Health statistics show the daily spike in cases is the largest 24-hour jump since 1,514 people were diagnosed with the life-threatening disease on June 14 – taking the rolling average number of cases over the 1,000 mark. Eleven more deaths were also confirmed across the UK.
The rising numbers of positive tests have ignited fears that the virus is rebounding and sliding out of control. But top experts have dismissed fears and believe the spike is merely down to more targeted testing in hotspots.
Government scientific advisers today revealed Britain’s coronavirus R rate remains between 0.8 and 1.0 for the UK and England overall – meaning it hasn’t changed in the past week. But the South East is now the only region where officials are confident the rate is lower than the dreaded level of one.
SAGE also admitted it is not certain that the R is below one overall because it can only use data from two to three weeks ago, and warned there are ‘early indications’ that the rate of spread could be increasing.
However, SAGE also maintained that the outbreak is shrinking and cases are falling by between one and four per cent each day in its growth rate update, which it releases every Friday alongside the R rate estimate.
Separate data this afternoon also tempered fears that new cases of the disease are surging out of control again, as the Office for National Statistics said the outbreak in England has stabilised again after a rise in July.
Concerns of a second major surge had been rising in recent weeks as local lockdowns sprung up in the Midlands and North of England, and Boris Johnson said he must ‘squeeze the brakes’ on easing rules at the end of July.
But today’s weekly estimates are mostly the same as last week except for a slight rise in the estimated daily new cases. The ONS believes 3,800 people catching the virus each day in the community in England – slightly up from the figure of 3,700 last week. It also said around one in every 1,900 people is currently infected.
NHS England said in its daily update that eight more people died with Covid-19 in its hospitals between August 5 and August 13.
The victims were aged between 75 and 90 and four of them were in the East of England, one in the Midlands and three in the North West.
SAGE’s report today – a weekly update of the estimated rate at which the virus is spreading and whether the outbreak is getting bigger or smaller – suggests cases are still declining across the UK overall.
The R rate remains at 0.8 to 1.0, meaning every 10 people with Covid-19 infect between eight and 10 others, and the outbreak is shrinking at between one and four per cent each day.
Regional pictures are more complex and the South East appears to be the only region of England where SAGE is confident the R is lower than one – it is thought to be between 0.8 and 0.9 there.
The highest R is in the North West where it is between 0.9 and 1.1, and every other region is rated 0.8 to 1.0. SAGE said that the estimates for London, the Midlands, the North East and the South West are unreliable either because there are too few cases or because there are such stark differences across areas within the region.
Growth rates – how quickly the outbreak is growing or shrinking day-on-day – also present a mixed picture across the UK. The outbreak is considered to definitely be shrinking in the East, the Midlands, the South East and the UK as a whole.
But it could be expanding and cases increasing in the North West and South West, officials say, while it is either shrinking or stagnant in London, the Midlands and England overall.
SAGE admitted that the fact its data is old means it cannot be certain that the R is still below one in the UK.
It said: ‘We are starting to see early indications that these values may be increasing. This is not yet fully reflected in these estimates because the data used to calculate R and growth rate reflect the situation from a few weeks ago.
‘It is also important to recognise that these are estimates, and there is a high degree of uncertainty with them.’
The ONS report this week used results from 122,021 swab tests taken over six weeks, out of which 58 people tested positive for Covid-19.
People who have coronavirus and are in hospital or care homes are not included in the data.
Lifting lockdown on July 4 – Super Saturday – does not appear to have led to a spike in the numbers of people catching coronavirus, the ONS reports show.
There was a small rise in cases in July – the percentage of people testing positive rose to 0.07 per cent in the week ending July 26 – but this appears to have dropped again.
The percentage has remained below 0.1 per cent – one in every 1,000 people – since May 30, showing there have been no drastic increases.
‘There is evidence that the incidence rate for England has increased in the most recent weeks following a low point in June and appears to have now levelled off,’ the report said.
Official testing figures have been rising this week, with more than 1,000 cases declared on three occasions in four days after the number not being hit since June.
But experts say this is down to better testing which is finding cases more accurately thanks to increased efforts in virus hotspots and looser criteria on who can be tested. Tests still only appear to account for a quarter of the real number of new cases each day.
In Wales the report estimated that 1,500 people had coronavirus at any one time between August 3 and August 9 – one in every 2,100 people.
Today’s update comes after researchers yesterday said there is no evidence that England is entering a second wave of coronavirus infections, and that it is in fact still coming to the end of the first wave.
A team of scientists at King’s College London, who run the Covid Symptom Tracker mobile app, said cases appear to have actually dipped to their lowest since the beginning of July.
The app estimates cases depending on users reporting their symptoms and positive test results.
It estimates 1,434 people are being infected per day in the UK, according to data in the two weeks up to August 8, which does not include care homes or hospitals.
This is down on the 1,626 daily new cases in the two weeks up to 1 August, and 2,110 in the two weeks up to 25 July.
Across July, the researchers were concerned that Covid-19 cases were possibly rising, or were barely dropping below 2,000 new daily cases.
But now they are at last falling to levels recorded before pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and other venues re-opened on ‘Super Saturday’ – July 4.
In contrast, the government tally shows new cases, confirmed with a lab test, are on the rise. More than 1,000 Britons tested positive for coronavirus yesterday after record low cases in July.
And there are concerns spikes abroad in holiday destinations Spain, France and Greece will soon hit Britain.
In light of increasing cases, scientists have said we must learn to live with Covid-19 and that small surges in cases are to be expected.
The COVID-19 Symptom Study app has now been downloaded by over 3.9million people in the UK who regularly update information about if they have symptoms of have had a Covid-19 test.
The latest figures were based on the data from 10,988 swab tests done between 26 July to 8 August. They estimate that 24,131 people currently have symptomatic Covid-19 in the UK.
It’s down on the 26,512 reported last week (up until August 1) and 29,174 on the week prior (up until July 25). But despite the positive signs, the team said the data suggests Covid-19 cases have ‘remained stable’ overall.
They are cautious to make firm conclusions that the outbreak is either growing or shrinking until they are certain.