Covid-19 UK: Number of Britons getting tell-tale coronavirus symptoms has HALVED in a week
Boris Johnson today faced fresh calls to speed up his lockdown exit roadmap after coronavirus data suggested the UK is now in a similar position to July last year at the point of the last major unlocking.
A Covid Symptom Study, run by ZOE and King’s College London, estimated around 1,924 people were getting ill every day between March 20 to April 3 as the number of Britons with tell-tale Covid symptoms more than halved in a week.
That represented the team’s lowest estimate since August and is down 54 per cent from 4,152 per day the previous week, with the fall coming after a period of levelling off, which experts blamed on schools reopening.
Separately, modelling published by University College London suggested Britain could pass the threshold for herd immunity as soon as Monday next week.
The UCL data suggested that 73.4 per cent of the population will have protection against Covid by April 12, a significantly more optimistic outlook then that of a study published by Imperial College this week which suggested just 34 per cent would have the vital antibody protection by the end of last month.
Meanwhile, Department of Health data released yesterday showed there were 2,763 new lab-confirmed cases and 45 Covid deaths – numbers broadly in line with the picture last summer.
The numbers, as well as the success of the vaccine rollout, have prompted Tory MPs to urge Mr Johnson to speed up the easing of restrictions.
Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory former Cabinet minister, told MailOnline that exit from lockdown ‘should be quicker’ because the PM’s current roadmap dates are ‘deeply pessimistic’.
Despite the increasingly positive data, Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted the nation is on the ‘right course’ as he dismissed UCL’s modelling on herd immunity.
Herd immunity is when an infectious disease stops naturally spreading in a population because enough people are protected against the disease.
Mr Hancock rubbished the forecast and said he had been ‘told by some scientists that we were going to have herd immunity in May and then in June and then after that’.
He defended the Government’s cautious approach and said ‘we have seen what happens when this virus gets going’ with the PM’s plan designed to achieve an ‘irreversible’ return to soemthing close to normal life.
It came as Mr Hancock launched a media blitz to reassure the public over the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine as he insisted the nation’s vaccination drive remains on course to offer all UK adults a jab by the end of July.
Mr Hancock said a decision by UK health chiefs to rule the AstraZeneca jab should not be given to Britons under the age of 30 as experts continue to investigate its link to rare blood clots showed ‘the safety system is working because the regulators can spot even this extremely rare event’.
He said ‘people can take confidence that we have a system that we are extremely careful on the safety front’ but he insisted that ‘when you get the call, get the jab’.
The Government’s vaccine advisory group yesterday ruled that people aged between 18 and 29 should be offered an alternative to AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
Mr Hancock said the UK has ‘more than enough’ Pfizer and Moderna jabs to cover all of the people in that age group who are yet to receive a vaccination – approximately 8.5million.
He said ‘all three vaccines that are in use in the UK are safe and they are safe at all ages’ and that there is simply a ‘preference for the under-30s, if they want to have the Pfizer of Moderna jab instead then they can’.
The number of Britons getting tell-tale Covid symptoms has more than halved in a week, data by ZOE and King’s College London has shown
NHS Test and Trace data released today showed the number of people testing positive for Covid fell by a fifth to 29,293 between March 25 and March 31 compared to the previous week
Some 4.8million people were tested at least once during the week — an 18 per cent fall on the previous week — because some schools shut earlier for Easter
Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, said: ‘Admissions and deaths are also continuing to decline, putting the UK in a similar place to July last year. It’s unlikely that cases will continue to fall at this pace, but with the vaccinations programme and the weather improving, it’s likely they will remain low.’
The figures compliment data released by NHS Test and Trace today, which showed the number of people testing positive for Covid fell by a fifth to 29,293 between March 25 and March 31 compared to the previous week.
Some 4.8million people were tested at least once during the week — an 18 per cent fall on the previous week — because some schools shut earlier for Easter.
The fall was a significant drop off compared to the drop seen in the previous week (one per cent) and the week before that (five per cent), suggesting cases are beginning to fall at an increased rate again.
Department of Health data yesterday which showed official Covid cases fell by a third in a week to 2,763 yesterday. But deaths rose slightly by two to 45. Hospital admissions are also still falling.
The Office for National Statistics will today publish a new estimate of how many people in the country have the virus. Last week it was 148,100 — the lowest figure since before the second wave spiralled out of control and down almost 10 per cent on the previous seven-day spell.
Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app, said the UK’s figures are among the lowest in Europe.
He said: ‘According to the latest data, daily new cases of Covid have more than halved over a seven day period, with cases now below 2,000. These figures are among the lowest in Europe.
‘Admissions and deaths are also continuing to decline, putting the UK in a similar place to July last year. It’s unlikely that cases will continue to fall at this pace, but with the vaccinations programme and the weather improving, it’s likely they will remain low.’
The study estimates one in 1,394 people suffered from Covid symptoms last week, with 1,529 people becoming ill per day in England, compared to 316 in Scotland, 79 in Wales and zero in Northern Ireland.
The figures are based on over a million app users reporting their symptoms and so cannot take into account people who get the virus but don’t have symptoms. It also doesn’t include people in hospitals or care homes.
Rates were lowest in the North East of England, with no one developed symptoms, and the East Midlands, where just 92 became ill each day.
The study estimates one in 1,394 people suffered from Covid symptoms last week, with 1,529 people becoming ill per day in England, compared to 316 in Scotland, 79 in Wales and zero in Northern Ireland
They were highest in the Yorkshire and the Humber (454) and London (305), while the East of England was the only other area of the country to see less than a hundred a day (99).
The estimated R rate, measuring the number of people infected by each person with the virus, is close to 0.8 in England and Scotland and just 0.5 in Wales. An R of 1 means the outbreak is neither growing nor shrinking.
SAGE will publish an updated official estimate of the R rate later today. Last week it was thought to be somewhere between 0.8 and 1.
Matt Hancock faced a backlash this week after he claimed a multi-billion pound plan to test everyone for coronavirus twice a week is the only way ‘back to normality’ — despite fears a surge in ‘false positives’ could actually derail the lockdown easing.
The PM and Health Secretary announced a huge expansion of testing with free rapid kits made available to everyone in England from tomorrow.
But professor Spector warned people to confirm positive rapid test results with a full NHS PCR test to prevent false positives biasing case data and making the pandemic seem larger than it is.
He said: ‘This week the government announced plans to make home-based lateral flow tests accessible as a tactic to catch more cases.
‘According to our own data, five in 1000 of these tests give a false positive result, so we are encouraging people to take a lateral flow test at least twice if positive and confirm it with a full NHS PCR test.
‘However, people also need to know all the 20 symptoms, including sore throat, headache and fatigue, not just the classic three. So if you feel unwell with any of the symptoms of Covid, stay at home and get a test.’
NHS Test and Trace data today showed the number of people testing positive for the virus is beginning to fall at a faster rate again, dropping for the twelfth week in a row.
Positive tests fell from around 37,000 to 29,000 in the weeks March 18 to 24 and March 24 to 31 respectively — a drop of 20.9 per cent.
The fall comes after a period of levelling off, with the most recent data showing falls fell five per cent and one per cent in the two weeks before hand as children returned to the classrooms and testing ballooned.
But test numbers did fall in the most recent week, contributing to the large drop in positive cases. The number of tests fell from 5.8million to 4.8million, as some shool children began their Easter holiday, after peaking at 6.2million in the week from March 11 to March 17.
The positivity rate — a better measure of the pandemic when testing jumps significantly — shows the percentage of tests that were positive in the most recent week has continued to fall.
Just 0.61 per cent of tests were positive in the week ending March 31, down from 0.63 per cent the week before. This figure peaked at 16.7 per cent in the height of the second wave from December 24 to 30.
Britain today saw its Covid cases dip by a third week-on-week after recording 2,763, compared to the 4,052 from last week
But deaths rose slightly after 45 were recorded, which was two more than the same time the week before
More than 31.7million Britons – or three in five adults – have now received their first dose of the Covid vaccine. A 24-year-old carer became the first person to get the Moderna Covid vaccine in the UK today
It comes as the UK’s medical regulator today recommended all healthy under-30s should be offered an alternative to AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine amid mounting evidence that it may cause blood clots in very rare cases.
In a blow to the programme, the Government’s vaccine advisory group recommended healthy people aged 19 to 29 should be offered either the Pfizer or Moderna jabs when the roll-out is expanded.
A review by the drugs watchdog the MHRA found that by the end of March, 79 out of 20million Britons vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab had suffered deadly blood clots in the brain or arteries – a rate of about one in 250,000. Nineteen of these individuals died and three were under the age of 30.
Anyone who has already had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, regardless of their age, is being advised to go for their second appointment as planned.
Experts stressed the blood clots were very rare, and England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam said the risk from Covid always outweighs that from vaccine side-effects for older age groups who are more likely to suffer hospitalisation and death if they catch the virus.
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