The UK today announced a further 33,470 positive coronavirus cases – 39 percent more than last Thursday – despite indicators suggesting the outbreak is slowing.
The number of cases is the highest since the Covid-19 outbreak began and comes a week after the second national lockdown began in England. It's an increase from 22,950 yesterday.
However, unofficial statistics suggest that the country's outbreak slowed and diminished even before the November 5 lockdown began, and is expected to continue to shrink during November's strict regulations.
While today's number is high, the number of cases at the Ministry of Health isn't tied to a specific day – the 33,000 infections announced today come from tests done on multiple days in the past week or more. That doesn't mean all of these people tested positive today.
Test data shows that the number of people who tested positive increased on Monday, November 9th, when 24,642 people who took swabs became infected. Tests from that day made 11,685 of today's total.
It is also known that the test system does not take all people infected with Covid-19 as many never get symptoms. This means the number of people who test positive can fluctuate without fundamentally changing the size of the outbreak.
Professor Stephen Powis, the medical director of NHS England, said in a briefing this afternoon that it was "important not to focus on just a single day" but to examine a variety of data sources.
The REACT mass test study conducted today by the government found that the spread of the virus slowed earlier this month, while scientists behind the Covid Symptom Study now estimate the R-number to be below one.
However, experts agree that the number of people currently infected with the virus is very high – over half a million by best estimates – which was part of Boris Johnson's rationale for introducing Lockdown 2.0.
Data from the Office of National Statistics last Friday suggested these may gradually weaken before lockdown began under the three-tier local rules.
In other coronavirus news:
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak has hinted that he could bring Eat Out to Help Out back in the New Year to save the economy again – but it will clash with diets in January and a government fight against junk food.
- Researchers in England have found that blacks are twice as likely to get Covid-19 as whites, but are no higher risk of death if they have it – but Asians have a higher death rate.
- Number 10 said Economic Secretary Alok Sharma and NHS England Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis will host a press conference on Downing Street this afternoon.
- The capital gains tax could be widened by the government to fill the void the coronavirus epidemic has left on UK bank accounts.
- Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has admitted that millions of people may not be getting the best coronavirus vaccine possible because they are used when they are ready – the nation cannot afford to wait for the best, he said ;
- A testing expert said there was "absolutely no chance" that the rapid coronavirus tests launched in Liverpool and elsewhere for Operation Moonshot will normalize the UK after a study found they were 77% accurate.
- Health Secretary Helen Whately said the NHS Test and Trace telephone hotline misses 25,000 calls a day. Only 56 percent of calls are actually answered by the Serco system.
- A study by Public Health England found that people with learning disabilities are up to 30 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than people without.
Scientists from the Covid Symptom Study claimed today that the R-rate of coronavirus across the UK is now 0.9, meaning the outbreak has started to shrink and the "end in sight" is in sight
Professor Tim Spector, who runs the Covid Symptom Study, said new coronavirus infections are falling across England and are now – for the whole of the UK – around 36,000 a day
Professor Powis said this afternoon, "It is important to look at the cases reported over several days, and not just take one day in isolation."
“Because of the way Test and Trace works, it's important not to focus on just one day. The second, of course, is that there is other data that needs to be investigated – the Office of National Statistics has been studying Covid infections in part of the population every week. I'm sure it will report again tomorrow and the REACT study, a similar study by Imperial College, did the same.
"So I think we're not looking at a single day, we're not looking at a single record." These records in particular are going to be very important as they are not affected by some things related to Test and Trace, those who come up … they look at people who are essentially chosen at random from the entire population.
“But it is clear that infection rates have increased and it is really important to lower those infection rates.
"That will reduce the number of deaths, ease the pressure on hospitals, and prevent the long-term effects like long-term Covid."
The REACT-1 project, which wiped tens of thousands of people every week, found today that November daily infections had slowed significantly after a wave of new cases in the previous two months, and they even suggested the R Rate fell to 0.85 earlier this month.
Imperial College London experts behind the investigation said the decline is "seen across the country, both north and south, and is not being driven by any region" – suggesting the three-tier curb system is just beginning Going into effect before the ministers gave in and pressed the lockdown panic button.
However, the scientists estimated that the virus infected 100,000 people each day in England each day before the lockdown, and that at some point a million people would have the disease.
They said the second economically crippling shutdown was justified because the gearbox was still too high.
However, on October 25, the Imperial team forecast that there were 96,000 infections per day and that the outbreak would double every nine days – dire predictions that SAGE has cited as evidence of the draconian measures now being imposed on the country.
While 100,000 is still much higher than officials wanted, it signals that the virus has already started to slow down.
Professor Steve Riley and Professor Paul Elliott, the study directors at Imperial, said they actually expected a much higher level of infection due to the rate of increase at the beginning of the month.
They suggested that the three-tier lockdown system may have gone into effect towards the end of October and that the worse weather and halftime break may have reduced the number of people going out to socialize.
Although infection rates remain high, Professor Riley, an infectious disease expert at Imperial College, said the change in infection levels in early November "could be interpreted as a plateau or gradual decline".
He and his colleague Professor Paul Elliott, an epidemiologist, said it had been difficult figuring out why cases seemed to fall just before the national lockdown and then to rise again.
Semi-annual or colder, wetter weather could have deterred people from socializing and reducing infections, they said, while speculation about a larger lockdown later could have led people to abandon caution and more so around Halloween walk around, which then caused an increase.
However, they agreed that the rapid rate of increase in early and mid-October did not last into November, when the final round of testing – Round 6 – ended.
The REACT-1 project, which wiped tens of thousands of people every week, found that infections had slowed significantly in November after a wave of new cases in the two months before
Numbers from their interim report dated October 29th rocked the country when it was revealed that 96,000 people catch Covid-19 every day and 1.3 percent of the population were infected.
The numbers were an estimated 0.6 percent increase in the infection rate on Round 5 in September, indicating that the second wave had exploded. But the rate at which it got worse has slowed in the latest data.
Professor Riley said in a briefing today: “I think we can say that the level we reached at the end of the sixth round is lower than we would have expected if the trend had continued at the beginning of the sixth round.
"If you average the data, this is more of a plateau than we would have had."
Professor Elliott added, “The prevalence [of the coronavirus] is slightly higher, but not as high as the very rapid increase we reported in our last interim report would have been.
"Last week's ONS report may also have been about a plateau … Even if you look at the symptomatic coverage of Pillar 1 and Pillar 2, there wasn't the same increase. I think it's still rising, but it doesn't rise at the same rate. "
The two agreed that the fact that more areas were forced into third-stage closures in mid-October may have slowed the outbreak's growth.
Professor Riley said, "It could certainly add to the downturn."
But they stood by their demands for a second national lockdown, saying that 100,000 daily cases are still too high.
Imperial College London experts behind the investigation said the decline was "seen across the country, both north and south, and not being driven by any region" – suggesting the three-tier curb system is just beginning Going into effect before the ministers gave in and pressed the lockdown panic button
The Covid Symptom Study now suggests that around 35,963 people develop symptomatic Covid-19 every day in the UK, up from 44,000 per day at the end of October. The graph shows how the total number of people with symptomatic Covid-19 per day has also started to decline
Professor Elliott wrote in the report: “Our latest round of REACT testing provides reliable data on the UK coronavirus situation up to just three days before the country enters the second nationwide lockdown.
"We showed that the prevalence of infection has remained high, adding to the need for people to act to fight infection and control the virus." These important data will be an important basis for determining whether the new measures are effective in curbing the growth of the epidemic. "
In more good news, scientists from the Covid Symptom Study claimed today that the R-rate of coronavirus across the UK is now 0.9, meaning the outbreak has started to shrink and the "end in sight" is in sight .
King's College London Epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector, who heads the project, announced today that his latest data shows that the R – the number of people infected by each individual case – is the lowest since August and this rate of new diseases is slowly falling to below 36,000 new infections per day.
Professor Spector argued that the falling R-rate was evidence that people's behavior during the three-tier lockdown had already started to lower infections, while the effects of England's national restrictions began to be felt in the data in the coming days and weeks will.
The study is based on health reports from more than one million users of the Covid Symptom Study app from health tech company ZOE and coronavirus test results logged by volunteers and official data. Although unofficial, the infection rates and R-value have been consistently estimated since the beginning of the pandemic.