A further 816 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Britain and 21 more patients have died, official statistics revealed today.
The update takes the total number of fatalities to 46,595 and means there have now been 311,641 people diagnosed with the disease since January.
Today’s data comes amid concerns the virus is starting to spread out of control again after 1,062 people were diagnosed yesterday – the first time since June 25 that the daily rise was more than 1,000.
But today’s statistics have shown a 23 per cent drop in new cases, which also brings the seven day average down a notch from 877 per day to 860.
And other promising data shows that the number of people receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19 in England has plummeted by 96 per cent since April.
Survival rates in intensive care units are improving thanks to improved understanding of the disease and experimental treatments, and smaller proportions of people catching the disease are needing life-saving medical help.
Government focus now is on getting children back to school and a row has broken out between politicians and unions over reopening classrooms across the UK.
NHS England today confirmed six more people died in its hospitals between July 29 and August 9.
Two of those were in the North East and Yorkshire region, with the other four all dying in the East of England.
And Northern Ireland’s government confirmed another death had been confirmed there over the weekend.
Today marks the 25th day in a row that no more deaths have been confirmed in Scotland.
While the number of people dying of Covid-19 in Britain is now very low and continuing to fall, concerns have turned to the number of cases being diagnosed each day.
Yesterday, Sunday, the daily count tipped above 1,000 for the first time in around six weeks when 1,062 people received a positive test result.
The country had not seen an increase so large since June 25, when 1,118 cases were reported in a single day.
The numbers come almost exactly a fortnight after Boris Johnson predicted a second wave in two weeks.
On July 28, a senior government source said the Prime Minister was ‘extremely concerned’ by outbreaks ‘bubbling up’, both at home and abroad.
Even as case numbers are increasing, however, the number of people going to hospital with the virus continues to fall and is now at the lowest level of the entire outbreak.
In the seven days leading up to August 5, 375 people were hospitalised with Covid-19 in England, compared to 18,638 between March 28 and April 3.
While the number of patients in hospitals would be expected to drop as cases decline and the virus fades out, data suggests fewer people are getting severely ill.
The proportion of coronavirus patients who need hospital care – regardless of the true number – seems to be falling.
Since late April, when testing first started to become available outside of hospitals, the proportion of positive cases being hospitalised has dropped from around a quarter to less than 10 per cent, averaging seven per cent – just one in every 14 – over the past week.
Experts say better treatments, more hospital capacity and some levels of immunity may have helped push down the need for hospital care.
Survival rates have improved, too, with eight in 10 intensive care patients now making it through their illness, up from fewer than half in April.
The NHS faces a huge backlog of non-coronavirus patients after emptying its hospital wards to prepare for a surge in people sick with Covid-19. Falling levels of hospitalisations could help the health service get back on its feet if the virus remains under control.
The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 in England peaked at 17,172 on April 12, and the number of people on ventilators was highest on the same day, at 2,881.
This has since plummeted by 96 per cent to 638 people in hospital on August 7, and 98 per cent to 57 people on ventilators.
Patients on ventilators are usually the most ill and have to be hooked up to the life support machine to help them breathe by forcing air into their damaged lungs.
The most new admissions to hospitals happened on March 31 when there were 3,099 people taken into hospital with the disease.
On August 5 – the most recent day for which there is data – just 21 people were admitted.
That was the lowest figure so far in the epidemic and represents just three per cent of the 820 new cases that had been diagnosed each day, on average, over the last week.
That percentage – the number of hospital patients compared to the average number of people diagnosed over the past week – shows approximately how many officially tested people become so ill that they need to go to hospital.
Testing for people outside of hospital first became available on April 23, at which time around a quarter of people testing positive were hospital inpatients.
This has now been consistently at 10 per cent or lower since July 29, suggesting fewer people are now getting severely ill.
Professor Anthony Gordon, an intensive care expert at Imperial College London, said vulnerable people – those more likely to end up in hospital – were more likely to have got ill at the start of the epidemic before, or early in, the lockdown.
Data from intensive care units shows that survival rates of critically ill patients have improved drastically.
When the first report from the Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre (ICNARC) was published in April, 51.6 per cent of ICU patients had died.
But in the most recent report, which includes all hospitalised patients up to July 30, the death rate has dropped to 38.7 per cent, and in July alone it was just 20 per cent, the Express reported.
Professor Gordon told the Express: ‘As this was a new disease we learnt quickly how to treat it and doctors very quickly adjusted.
‘Clinical trials in this country have developed new evidence to know the best treatments. Use of steroids – dexamethasone – I think that has helped improve outcomes.
‘More recently we’ve seen as the surge has eased that we’re treating fewer patients. That has eased the pressure on healthcare, particularly on intensive care units.’