Coronavirus "is not out of control" in the UK, Matt Hancock has said scientists have warned the government is no longer under control of the spread of the disease.
Yesterday, the UK recorded the highest number of daily Covid-19 cases since May after 2,988 were reported in just 24 hours.
The last time the case number was this high in the UK was May 23 – 15 weeks ago – when 2,959 people tested positive.
Scientists said it was starting to look like the UK "is entering a period of exponential growth" and if it does, "we can expect further increases in the weeks ahead".
But Health Secretary Hancock today allayed fears, saying cases have not got out of hand while admitting cases is "worrying" because "no one wants a second wave".
He said most of the cases were caused by those under the age of 25 in "affluent areas" while urging them to continue social distancing to avoid the virus being passed on to their grandparents.
Scientists previously said that cases rose in August due to increased testing at hotspots. The more tests that are done, the more cases are found.
However, the data suggests that more people are actually getting the coronavirus – the number of people who get a "positive" result after testing has increased by 50 percent in six weeks – from 1.4 percent in mid-July to 2 , 3 percent now.
Labor shadow health minister Jonathan Ashworth described the spike as "deeply worrying and worrying" in cases, suggesting that the prevalence of the coronavirus is indeed increasing.
He also called on Mr Hancock to give the House of Commons an urgent statement to explain the test fiasco where some people from the NHS test booking site are still being instructed to drive hundreds of miles to get a test.
The UK recorded the highest number of daily Covid-19 cases since May after 2,988 were reported in just 24 hours
The number of people who received a “positive” result after a test under Pillar 2 has risen to 2.3 percent in the last few weeks (blue line). It's also elevated below Pillar 2 (red line), but not nearly as high as it was at the height of the pandemic
Mr Hancock said the main point that needs to be conveyed is that the increase in cases in recent days has been among younger people under the age of 25, particularly those aged 17-21. The raw data are shown for new cases in each age group, with women between the ages of 20 and 30 making up the majority of cases
The graph shows how new Covid-19 cases are increasing in the UK, but the "positivity rate" is now dramatically lower than the height of the pandemic when it was more than 20 percent overall
The escalating Covid-19 cases in the UK are following the same trends in France and Spain and the lifting of several lockdown restrictions.
Mr Hancock said on LBC radio this morning, "This surge, if we have seen it in the past few days, is worrying and it is worrying because we have seen increases in cases in France, Spain and some other countries in Europe . "
“Nobody wants to see a second wave here. It just reinforces the point that people need to obey the rules of social distancing, they are so important. & # 39;
When asked by moderator Nick Ferrari whether Britain has lost control as suggested by some experts, Hancock said, “No, but the whole country must follow social distancing.
“We will certainly see cases where this is not the case and then take action.
HOW DOES THE CHECK INFLUENCE THE CASE NUMBERS?
As more people are tested for Covid-19, it will show up in case data, experts say. On the surface, it may look like a surge in infections, but on the whole, that's nothing to worry about as it only diagnoses more people than before when testing was limited to those in the hospital.
Professor Kevin McConway, Professor Emeritus of Applied Statistics at the Open University, said, “In the early stages of the pandemic, there were far fewer tests available in most countries than they are today. Part of the reason there are more cases is because people are better at searching and finding them. & # 39;
And Dr. Andrew Preston, a reader on Microbial Pathogenesis at the University of Bath, said, if you test more people, you will find more positive results.
"Originally, testing was limited to those who reported symptoms, but this has relaxed and now a wider range of people can request tests."
Testing capacity has grown rapidly over the course of the pandemic to reach more people. And this has resulted in a slight increase in the number of people who get a positive result – but not to a level that suggests the prevalence of the virus is rising sharply.
A significantly higher number of people have been tested since July – when the diagnosed cases were the lowest, NHS test and trace data shows.
Between August 13 and August 19, 442,392 people were tested – a nearly 20 percent increase from the 355,597 tested between July 9 and 15.
However, the positive earnings ratio rose only slightly from 1.12 percent to 1.4 percent in the same period. This shows that not many more people tested positive than negative in August than in July.
Other data from Public Health England shows a similar trend over the course of the pandemic.
Tests have increased significantly from no more than 13,000 tests a day in early April to around 150,000 in July.
During the same period, the positive test results in Pillar 2 – i.e. outside of hospitals and nursing homes – dropped drastically from a high of 5.2 percent in May to 1.4 percent in mid-July, which shows that fewer people tested positive for the coronavirus despite tests reaching thousands more people.
That number rose slightly from 1.6 percent to 2.1 percent for the week ending August 23 that month. However, this is a small increase compared to the 5 percent in May. The tests have hit up to 200,000 a day this month.
Dr. Duncan Young, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at Oxford University, commented on these numbers to MailOnline: & # 39;It is therefore very likely that the increase in cases is mainly related to increased testing, but has little effect on the increased prevalence. "
Even so, it doesn't necessarily preclude the transmission of the disease from actually increasing.
Scientists admit that the apparent increase in cases is caused by increased community transmission as a result of the easing of lockdown restrictions.
"But the position is not like it was in March and April," said Professor McConway.
& # 39; The number of cases (in the UK) is well below the peak of the March and April pandemic.
“For example, in Bolton, where the numbers are highest, we traced many of these cases to a single pub and took action in that pub. The pub had to close and solve the problem. & # 39;
Mr Hancock said the main point that needs to be conveyed is that the increase in cases in recent days has been among younger people under the age of 25, particularly those aged 17-21.
"The message to all of your younger listeners (on LBC) and to everyone is: Even if you have a lower risk of dying from the coronavirus, at this age and under the age of 25 you can still have serious problems, symptoms and consequences," he said.
“And Long Covid, where people are still sick after six months, is widespread in this population. They can also infect other people.
"And that argument that some people come out with and say, 'You don't have to worry about the cases spiking because it's younger people and they're not dying. "
First, they can get very, very sick. And second, it inevitably leads to older people catching it from them. So don't infect your grandparents. "
It has been speculated that most of the new cases are occurring in poorer communities, where housing and people in key jobs, for example, are overcrowded.
Professor Gabriel Scally, former NHS regional director of public health for the Southwest, claimed the virus is now "endemic in our poorest communities".
However, Mr Hancock said it is now more common in "affluent areas" after various health chiefs found that the spread predominantly occurs when people socialize in other people's homes.
He said: “During the summer we had particular problems in some of the most deprived areas. In fact, the recent surge we've seen in the past few days is more diverse and not focused on poorer areas.
"It is actually especially among wealthier younger people that we have seen the rise.
"And this is where people really need to hear that message and stick to it. That means everyone has a responsibility to social distancing to protect themselves and others."
With government data showing an increasing number of cases over the past few weeks, scientists have suggested that more testing is happening in the hardest-hit places in England, particularly the northwest.
The vast majority of new cases were overlooked at the height of the UK outbreak as testing was limited to hospitals, while now anyone can get a test.
Last week, scientists said that if more people are tested, more cases will inevitably be discovered, which on the surface suggests that the coronavirus is spreading more even if it isn't.
However, data suggest that higher numbers of people are actually infected. Of the people tested, a higher proportion achieved a positive result – the so-called test positivity rate.
In the week ending August 30, 2.3 percent of Pillar 2 people who are outside of hospitals and nursing homes and who have had a coronavirus test saw a positive result – the highest since June 21 and an increase of 0 .2 percent compared to the previous week.
It hit a record low in the week leading up to July 19, when 1.4 percent tested positive, and has risen steadily since then.
It's nowhere near the 5.2 percent reported in May – when records of "test positivity" began – but it's a 50 percent increase in six weeks.
Public Health England data also shows that test positivity has increased under Pillar 1, which are hospitals and nursing homes. It rose from a low of 0.4 percent on August 2 to 0.6 percent for the week ended August 30.
The highest reading was in the week ending April 5, when 44 percent of the patients tested got a positive result.
When asked if the record number of cases were due to testing, Mr. Hancock said, “There is some degree of it.
“But we also check what we call test positivity – that is, both the number of cases we find and the proportion of people who test positive. That goes up too. & # 39;
Health Secretary Hancock today allied fears, saying cases have not got out of hand while admitting cases is "worrying" because "no one wants a second wave". He is pictured on LBC radio during today's interview
It comes after Professor Gabriel Scally, a former NHS regional director of public health for the Southwest, said the government had "lost control of the virus".
DOES SOCIAL DISTANCING MAKE THE VIRUS WEAK?
Experts believe the spread of coronavirus at lower doses is keeping the death toll and hospital admissions low, but daily cases are high.
Social distancing measures mean that an infected person can only pass on traces of Covid-19 to another person, which is why the “infectious dose” of the virus is lower.
Since the newly infected person would have a lower amount of the virus, their symptoms would not be as severe – similar to chickenpox.
While this would explain why an increase in cases has not led to an increase in deaths, doctors have stressed that not enough is known about Covid-19 to determine if it is dose-dependent.
Other viruses, including SARS and MERS – the coronaviruses behind two previous pandemic outbreaks – are following this pattern.
Covid-19 cases have been slowly creeping in in the UK since the beginning of July.
This may seem alarming, but it has not corresponded with an increase in the number of people dying from the virus.
Dr. Elisabetta Groppelli, a virologist at St. George & # 39; s University in London, said, “When you are exposed to lower levels of virus, fewer cells in your body become infected, so your immune system has time to trigger a response.
“If you infect many cells at the same time, you start at the back foot.
"There is currently no particularly solid data for Covid-19, but it makes sense."
Many comparisons have been made between Covid-19 and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
A dose-dependent theory would also provide an explanation for what happened then.
A 2010 analysis found that the second wave hit poorer communities living in overcrowded conditions. They were given larger contagious doses and many thousands died.
Dr. Groppelli added: “Age and other diseases play a big role. But if I had to get infected with this coronavirus, I would like the smallest dose possible as it would mean a higher chance that my body would get the infection under control. & # 39;
Professor Wendy Barclay, director of infectious diseases at Imperial College London, added, "It's all about the size of the armies on either side of the battle," she says.
& # 39; A very large virus army is difficult for the army of our immune system to fight off.
"So if you stand farther away from someone who breathes or coughs, you are likely to get fewer virus particles. Then with a lower dose you will get infected and get sick less."
He told The Guardian: "They have lost control of the virus. There are no longer small outbreaks to stomp on.
"It's become endemic in our poorest communities, and that's the result." It is extremely worrying when schools open and universities return. "
And Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said he feared the outbreak was a "return to exponential growth" and if so, "we can expect further spikes in the coming weeks".
He said yesterday: & # 39; The number of cases reported today is the largest new cases reported in a single day since May. This is especially true on a Sunday when the reporting numbers are generally lower than most other days of the week.
“Part of this increase may be due to late testing catching up in the past few days as the UK testing service faced difficulty coping with the number of tests requested.
"Even so, it represents a significant increase in the seven-day moving average from 1,812 cases per day from 1,244 a week ago and 1,040 a week earlier."
Professor Hunter told MailOnline that the recent surge in coronavirus cases came a little earlier than he expected.
"Coronaviruses usually appear in November and December," he said. "That came back earlier than I expected."
& # 39; There was a report that went to local authorities that peaked in January. I think that's probably right. Certainly December-January for the peak (but with fewer deaths). & # 39;
Labor shadow health minister Jonathan Ashworth said yesterday's case load was "deeply worrying" and "deeply worrying".
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today program this morning, he said, "It's data for a day," so we need to see what the trend is. But the data these days are alarming, no question about it. It suggests that the virus is increasing. & # 39;
Mr Ashworth has asked Mr Hancock to go to Parliament today to explain the testing fiasco that has occurred over the past few days.
People with coronavirus symptoms who try to book a test online have reported taking three hours to drive to get to the nearest center.
And some of them had to pass closer to test centers on the way to the more distant ones because the government's booking system was flawed.
Test and Trace Chief Dido Harding set a 75-mile limit for traveling to appointments on Friday after it was revealed that some patients were told to drive nearly 300 miles.
It has been suggested to fix this bug, which is causing the increase in some cases as more people are now learning that they can access a test nearby.
Mr. Ashworth said, “I think the central question from the government is what happens to tests?
"Because we've had all these stories in the last few days of people trying to book a test, people who are sick, are ill, think they have symptoms of Covid, and have been told to travel for miles, sometimes over 100 miles to get to a testing center. That is clearly unacceptable.
“So we ask the government, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, to get to the Commons quickly. Tell us what you think is happening to the infection rate today and tell us what he will do to fix the testing fiasco in the past few days. & # 39;
Another two people died after testing positive for the bug today, bringing the total death toll in the UK to 41,551
The increase in cases has not been seen in UK hospitalizations or deaths. This is further evidence that the coronavirus mainly affects the younger generations.
On May 23, the last time new cases were as high as they are now, 220 people died of Covid-19. However, the death toll yesterday was significantly lower. Another two people died after testing positive for the bug in the previous 28 days.
Professor Hunter said: "Fortunately, the daily reported death toll from Covid-19 remains very low with a moving average of just seven deaths per day over seven days.
However, with the new approach to recording deaths, it is difficult to be sure that there are timely statistics. It will be two or more weeks before we can really expect an impact on mortality rates. & # 39;
One scientist believes hospital stays are expected to increase, but deaths from better treatments will not follow.
Devi Sridhar, chairman of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, told BBC Radio 4's Today Program, “We have better treatments and doctors have better clinical ways to treat patients and have learned how to improve survival.
"The good news is that I think deaths will continue to fall, but I think hospitalizations will continue to be a challenge if these numbers continue and no restrictions are put in place to try to control them."
Other data suggests the UK coronavirus crisis is not getting worse. The Office for National Statistics assured on Friday that the number of people who contract coronavirus each day in England will remain stable.
Monitoring smears suggest 2,000 per day is down 200 compared to the previous Friday when the forecast was 2,200.
It is believed that 27,100 people in England are infected at one time – 0.05 percent of the population, or one in 2,000 people. That's a four percent decrease from last week's estimate of 28,200.
The ONS statisticians said: "There is evidence that the incidence rate for England remains unchanged".
Mr. Hancock said that ONS numbers show the NHS test and trace system works, despite constant criticism for failing to meet its goals. The scheme tracks down close contacts from Covid-19 cases and tells them to self-isolate to stop the transmission.
He said, "Today's ONS data shows that NHS Test and Trace and our local restriction approach are working in partnership with local areas to contain the virus and help the country safely return to normal."
Meanwhile, government experts said on Friday that the UK's growth rate – as the number of new cases changes from day to day – is between -1% and + 2%.
Like the R-rate, the growth rate is a tool for keeping track of the virus. If it is greater than zero and therefore positive, the disease grows, and if the growth rate is less than zero, the disease shrinks.
The value is displayed as a range. Since it is + 2%, it suggests that a slightly increasing fall rate is slightly more likely than a slow decrease.
The last week's growth rate interval was between -2% and + 1% per day, so the interval increased slightly in the direction of increasing cases instead of decreasing. However, the estimates show a high degree of uncertainty.
The R – the average number of people each virus patient will infect – must stay below one or the outbreak could grow exponentially.
However, SAGE estimates it is still between 0.9 and 1.1 after remaining unchanged from last week. However, the low infection rate in the UK means that small outbreaks can skew the estimate upwards.
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