Covid England: Third wave is NOT over despite falling cases

By | July 29, 2021

England’s Covid third wave is NOT over despite falling cases and there will be ‘bumpy moments’ this autumn and winter, warns deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam

  • Professor Jonathan Van-Tam rejected claims the pandemic was ‘all over bar the shouting’ today
  • He warned Britain was likely to face some ‘bumpy moments’ during the autumn and winter months
  • Public Health England data showed Covid cases had dipped in all of the country’s 149 local areas last week
  • King’s College London experts estimated just over 60,000 people were catching the virus daily in latest week
  • This was a slight increase on the previous seven-day spell, when it was estimated 60,000 were infected daily
  • Professor Tim Spector said their results differed from official tallies because Covid’s symptoms had changed
  • Double-vaccinated people who are infected are less likely to suffer the classic symptoms, studies show

Advertisement

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer, warned the third wave is not over and there will be 'bumpy moments' in the autumn and winter

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, warned the third wave is not over and there will be ‘bumpy moments’ in the autumn and winter

England’s Covid third wave is not over and there will be ‘bumpy moments’ in the autumn and winter, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has warned.

An un-named senior minister alleged earlier this week the pandemic was ‘all over bar the shouting’ amid falling case numbers which have now dropped week-on-week for eight days in a row. 

But the deputy chief medical officer today rejected the claim, saying: ‘I’ve heard people say in the media that this is all over. I wish it were so.’

He told the BBC: ‘I hope the worst is behind us, but I think it’s quite possible we will have one or two bumpy periods in the autumn and winter, not only through Covid, but also through flu and other respiratory viruses as well.’

Britain’s daily Covid cases dipped again today, according to official figures, after the Department of Health posted another 31,117 infections which was down by more than a fifth on last Thursday.

But hospitalisations rose by nearly a quarter to 932 admissions a day, and another 71 deaths were recorded which was the same as last week. Experts say hospitalisations may fall in the next seven days, and that they lag behind cases because of the time taken for someone who has caught the virus to fall seriously ill.

Separate Public Health England data today added to the promising picture by suggesting Covid cases were now falling in all of England’s 149 local authorities, and every age group except the over-80s.

Their weekly report showed, however, that fewer tests were being carried out which may be behind the drop in cases. But the positivity rate — the proportion of swabs that detected the virus — also fell, suggesting the trend is genuine and not skewed by a lack of swabbing.

But another report from the Covid symptom-study app today suggested Covid cases are not falling as fast as official figures suggest, and may have only plateaued last week.

King’s College London scientists estimated just over 60,000 people were catching the virus every day in the week to July 24, the latest date available. This was barely a change from the previous week.

Experts said today the ‘chaotic’ datasets were likely reflecting ‘a lot of different things going on at the same time’, including the start of the summer holidays, hot weather and easing restrictions on Freedom Day July 19.

They have warned that Britain may face a difficult winter this year because of an expected rise in Covid cases and resurgence of other respiratory viruses such as the flu, which have barely spread over the past 18 months.

Ministers are planning a jabs booster programme to ‘top up’ immunity against Covid in older age groups although it is yet to receive the green light, and will also be rolling out annual flu vaccines.

The vaccination drive has already protected the vast majority of Britons, including almost everyone in older age groups. But there are concerns Covid immunity from jabs could have waned by the winter, possibly opening the door to more people suffering serious disease from the virus.

It comes as:

  • PHE and Cambridge University scientists estimated the vaccines had already saved 60,000 lives and stopped more than 22million infections;
  • PHE’s boss Dr Yvonne Doyle warned Britons to socialise outdoors if they are planning on a staycation in order to limit the spread of the virus;
  • A record 690,000 alerts were sent out by the NHS contact tracing app last week, official data revealed, as the ‘pingdemic’ leaves millions of workers unable to do their jobs;
  • Almost three per cent of travellers returning from Spain are now testing positive for Covid, with the rate having tripled since the end of June figures showed;
  • Office for National Statistics survey found a quarter of 18 to 24 year olds were already defying Covid self-isolation rules before Freedom Day on July 19;
  • Test and Trace data showed cases rose by almost a third in the week to July 21, the latest available, when almost 308,000 were spotted. It lags by about a week behind official figures, meaning no downturn in cases is expected until next week.

Public Health England data suggested today that Covid cases are dropping in all 149 areas of England, after they fell in the latest week to July 25.
This was a stark contrast to the previous week when they rose in the vast majority of areas. Regionally, the North East saw the sharpest drop in cases followed by the West Midlands and the North West
Slide me

Public Health England data suggested today that Covid cases are dropping in all 149 areas of England, after they fell in the latest week to July 25. This was a stark contrast to the previous week when they rose in the vast majority of areas. Regionally, the North East saw the sharpest drop in cases followed by the West Midlands and the North West

 

PHE data showed Covid cases fell in all age groups except among over-80s (blue dashed line), but infections in the group plateaued for the first time since May when cases first started to rise. The biggest week-on-week drop in cases was among adults in their 20s (yellow line) where they almost halved to 616 cases per 100,000 people. They were followed by adults in their thirties (black dotted line) where cases dipped by almost two fifths to 475.7 per 100,000

PHE data showed Covid cases fell in all age groups except among over-80s (blue dashed line), but infections in the group plateaued for the first time since May when cases first started to rise. The biggest week-on-week drop in cases was among adults in their 20s (yellow line) where they almost halved to 616 cases per 100,000 people. They were followed by adults in their thirties (black dotted line) where cases dipped by almost two fifths to 475.7 per 100,000

Covid cases also declined across all regions with the biggest week-on-week drop recorded in the country's Covid hotspot the North East (yellow line). Cases here almost halved to 520 per 100,000. It was followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (black dashed line) where infections fell by two fifths to 339 per 100,000, and the North West where they dipped by 37 per cent to 380 cases per 100,000 people

Covid cases also declined across all regions with the biggest week-on-week drop recorded in the country’s Covid hotspot the North East (yellow line). Cases here almost halved to 520 per 100,000. It was followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (black dashed line) where infections fell by two fifths to 339 per 100,000, and the North West where they dipped by 37 per cent to 380 cases per 100,000 people

Read More:  Many ‘Long Covid’ Patients Had No Symptoms From Their Initial Infection
The number of tests carried out fell in the latest week which may be behind the decline in cases. But the positivity rate (black line for PCRs and black dotted line for lateral flow tests) also fell, suggesting the fall may be real. The positivity rate is the proportion of tests done that detect the virus

The number of tests carried out fell in the latest week which may be behind the decline in cases. But the positivity rate (black line for PCRs and black dotted line for lateral flow tests) also fell, suggesting the fall may be real. The positivity rate is the proportion of tests done that detect the virus

The Covid symptom study today showed there were just over 60,000 people catching the virus every day in the week to July 24, the latest available. This was a slight rise on the previous week when 60,000 people were getting infected a day. Experts behind the study said their figures differed from the national charts because Britain may now be testing the wrong people

Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at Reading University, said the latest datasets were ‘chaotic’ and were likely the result of several different events happening at the same time. 

He said: ‘Hopes have been pinned on the overall trend heading downwards, but a few days infection numbers here or there are in no way a reliable way to predict what the future holds.

‘Confident assertions that infection trends will definitely head in a certain direction ignore the last 18 months where trends can turn “on a dime”.

‘And while vaccinations are clearly having an impact on reducing the worst effects of Covid, we still have one fifth of the population unvaccinated and possibilities of future variants trying their best to get round our defences.

‘The only current certainty is that the future remains uncertain.’  

Public Health England publishes a report every week on the number of people testing positive for the virus by age and location, to track the spread of Covid in the country. 

In the latest week to July 25 they found Covid cases dipped in all areas, with the biggest decline in England’s hotspot the North East where infections almost halved in a week (46 per cent) to 520 cases per 100,000 people.

It was followed by the West Midlands where infections fell by two fifths (40 per cent) to 415 per 100,000, and the North West where they dropped by almost two-fifths (37 per cent) to 380 per 100,000.

And when the data was divided by age groups adults in their twenties saw the biggest fall in infections after they almost halved in seven days (down 48 per cent) to 616 cases per 100,000 people.

The second-biggest drop was among adults in their thirties where they fell by almost two-fifths (37 per cent) to 476 per 100,000, and those aged 10 to 19 where they also fell by almost two-fifths (36 per cent) to 658 per 100,000. 

Vaccines have already saved 60,000 lives and stopped 22million infections, experts say  

Vaccines have already saved 60,000 lives and prevented more than 22million infections, according to analysis by Public Health England and Cambridge University scientists.

They were also estimated to have stopped some 52,600 hospitalisations due to the virus.

The figures were published today as England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said he hopes the worst of the pandemic is behind the country.

But he warned there could be ‘one or two bumpy periods’ ahead.

Modelling by PHE and Cambridge scientists estimated the figures for the period up to July 23.

Previously they estimated that by July 9 the vaccines had saved 37,000 lives and stopped 11million cases.

But the surge in infections this month to more than 50,000 a day has led to a big uptick in the figures.

Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal, Consultant Epidemiologist at PHE, said: ‘These figures show the vaccine programme’s remarkable impact on saving lives and reducing the spread of the virus.

‘As cases have increased, the true scale of protection from the vaccine programme has become clear. Everyone that has come forward for their vaccine has played a part in this vital effort.

‘It remains vital that everyone gets 2 doses of the vaccine, to protect you and those around you from COVID-19. You must book your second jab when invited, to gain maximum protection.’

Advertisement

The downturn in cases was, however, accompanied by a drop in the number of tests carried out.

PHE data showed a third less PCRs were carried out in the latest week, after they dropped by about a million, and 20 per cent fewer lateral flow tests were completed, a drop of 600,000.

But in a glimmer of hope the test positivity rate still dipped, suggesting cases are falling.

For PCRs it fell from 11.5 to 9.7 per cent of tests done detecting the virus, and for lateral flows it fell from 2.4 to 1.6 per cent. 

PHE’s medical director Dr Doyle said: ‘Case rates remain high across the country, and we continue to monitor the data closely so we can understand how the pandemic is progressing.

‘The pandemic is certainly not over, and I continue to urge caution.’

She also urged Britons to avoid socialising indoors if they take a staycation this summer. 

‘If you are heading off on holiday in the UK this summer, remember it is safer to socialise outside and you should test yourself twice a week with free rapid tests,’ she said.

‘If you are travelling abroad make sure to check the rules for the country you are going to and remember just because you’re away, please continue to be cautious.’

It came as separate data from the ZOE symptom study suggested Covid were not falling last week, in contrast with official figures, but plateaued. 

In the latest week it estimated 60,480 people were catching Covid in the UK every day. This was barely a change from the previous seven-day spell. 

Professor Tim Spector, who leads the ZOE symptom-tracking study, said the difference was likely because the testing system was now swabbing the ‘wrong people’, leading to cases being missed. 

He said their figures showed Covid cases ‘have stopped rising for the last week and are holding steady around the 60,000 mark’.

‘This is in stark contrast to the rapid decline in cases recorded by the Government’s official confirmed cases data.

‘The drop is much faster than we’ve seen in previous waves, even after full national lockdowns, leaving the accuracy of the official tally in doubt.’

The epidemiologist added: ‘The UK is still testing more people than virtually any other country, although numbers have recently dropped, so it could be that we are now testing the wrong people.

Read More:  Meghan Markle Just Debuted Her Baby Bump for the First Time and It's So Adorable

‘There is still a very strict and limited symptom list in place, and we’ve been calling on the Government for months to expand the list to include cold-like symptoms which are currently the most common symptoms we are seeing in confirmed Covid cases.’  

‘If we got into line with other countries (by recognising more symptoms), we could pick up cases that are currently going undetected,’ he said.

The study relies on daily reports from more than a million Britons to track the spread of the virus across the country. It asks participants to report whether they are feeling unwell, their symptoms and whether they have received a positive test for the virus.

Official data shows the number of Covid tests carried out has dropped slightly over recent weeks. Experts say this is likely due to the school holidays, meaning hundreds of thousands of children no longer have to test themselves twice a week for Covid. The average number of tests carried out dropped almost eight per cent in the week to July 21, the latest available, after 960,000 people were swabbed  for the virus a day on average

Official data shows the number of Covid tests carried out has dropped slightly over recent weeks. Experts say this is likely due to the school holidays, meaning hundreds of thousands of children no longer have to test themselves twice a week for Covid. The average number of tests carried out dropped almost eight per cent in the week to July 21, the latest available, after 960,000 people were swabbed  for the virus a day on average

The symptom study found the majority of new infections were among people who had not been vaccinated (36,102 new cases a day — blue line). They said more people who were double-vaccinated were catching the virus every day (14,110 - red line) than partially vaccinated people (10,268 - green line). They said this was because far more Britons have been double-vaccinated than have received one dose. The graph is shown as the infection rate per 100,000 people in each group. This has led to the single-vaccinated cases appearing to be higher than the double-vaccinated cases because far fewer people have received one dose, as have received both doses

The symptom study found the majority of new infections were among people who had not been vaccinated (36,102 new cases a day — blue line). They said more people who were double-vaccinated were catching the virus every day (14,110 – red line) than partially vaccinated people (10,268 – green line). They said this was because far more Britons have been double-vaccinated than have received one dose. The graph is shown as the infection rate per 100,000 people in each group. This has led to the single-vaccinated cases appearing to be higher than the double-vaccinated cases because far fewer people have received one dose, as have received both doses

Figures from health data company ZOE show Covid cases have plateaued in recent days (blue). This is in start contrast to daily figures from the Department of Health (orange) and their average (black) which suggest there has been a sharp fall in cases. Experts behind the app said the Department of Health may be picking up a fall because it was now testing the wrong people

Figures from health data company ZOE show Covid cases have plateaued in recent days (blue). This is in start contrast to daily figures from the Department of Health (orange) and their average (black) which suggest there has been a sharp fall in cases. Experts behind the app said the Department of Health may be picking up a fall because it was now testing the wrong people

Professor Tim Spector, who leads the app, said their results may differ from the official tally because Britain is now testing 'the wrong people'

Officials have refused to expand the Government's list of symptoms (Pictured is Boris Johnson yesterday at a ceremony for police officers in Stafford, England)

Professor Tim Spector, who leads the app, said their results may differ from the official tally because Britain is now testing ‘the wrong people’. He pointed to data from his study showing double-vaccinated people who catch Covid now suffer it as a ‘bad cold’, and are less likely to get the ‘classic’ symptoms of a high temperature, new continuous  cough and loss of taste and smell. Officials have refused to expand the Government’s list of symptoms (Right: Boris Johnson yesterday)

Separate data from Test and Trace showed Covid cases rose by almost a third in the week to July 21, after 295,000 people tested positive. The system lags a week behind the official tally, meaning it is not yet expected to show a fall in cases

Separate data from Test and Trace showed Covid cases rose by almost a third in the week to July 21, after 295,000 people tested positive. The system lags a week behind the official tally, meaning it is not yet expected to show a fall in cases

There were also signs the system is already buckling under the pressure. Data showed it failed to reach 14.8 per cent of Covid positive people in the latest week, the highest since October last year when the second wave was gathering steam. A Covid-infected person is marked as not reached when they do not respond to texts, calls and emails telling them they have tested positive for the virus and need to self-isolate for ten days

There were also signs the system is already buckling under the pressure. Data showed it failed to reach 14.8 per cent of Covid positive people in the latest week, the highest since October last year when the second wave was gathering steam. A Covid-infected person is marked as not reached when they do not respond to texts, calls and emails telling them they have tested positive for the virus and need to self-isolate for ten days

Cases are NOT falling as fast as official figures suggest, symptom-study claims saying the ‘wrong people’ are being tested

Britain’s Covid cases may not be falling as quickly as official data suggests, symptom-tracking experts claimed today.

King’s College London scientists estimated slightly more than 60,000 people were getting infected each day in the week ending July 24, the latest available. This was barely different to the previous seven-day spell.

Experts behind the study said their results may differ from the official tally because the swabbing drive was now ‘testing the wrong people’, leading to many infections being missed.

They pointed to their own data which showed vaccines had mostly turned Covid into a ‘bad cold’ — with double-vaccinated Brits who catch the virus more likely to suffer a headache, runny nose, sneezing and a sore throat than the ‘classic’ three symptoms.

Officials have repeatedly refused to expand the Covid symptoms list to include more warning signs than a high temperature, new continuous cough and loss of taste and smell. This is despite more than 70 per cent of Britons being fully-jabbed.

Professor Tim Spector, who leads the study with health data company ZOE, said the figures showed Covid cases ‘have stopped rising for the last week and are holding steady around the 60,000 mark’.

‘This is in stark contrast to the rapid decline in cases recorded by the Government’s official confirmed cases data,’ he said. ‘The drop is much faster than we’ve seen in previous waves, even after full national lockdowns, leaving the accuracy of the official tally in doubt.’

The epidemiologist added: ‘The UK is still testing more people than virtually any other country, although numbers have recently dropped, so it could be that we are now testing the wrong people.

‘There is still a very strict and limited symptom list in place, and we’ve been calling on the Government for months to expand the list to include cold-like symptoms which are currently the most common symptoms we are seeing in confirmed Covid cases.’

Advertisement

The majority of cases detected by ZOE were estimated to be among Britons that were still yet to receive a single dose of a vaccine, with 36,102 new infections per day.

Among vaccinated Britons the study predicted there were more daily infections among people who have received both doses (14,110 cases a day) than one dose (10,268).

This does not mean vaccines do not work, and merely reflects the fact that most of the country has now received both doses, experts say.

Official data shows 37.6million Britons — or 71.1 per cent of adults — have got both doses of the vaccine, while 9million — 17.2 per cent — have only received one dose. 

The ZOE Covid symptom study was one of the first studies to spot loss of taste and smell as a symptom of the virus, and successfully lobbied ministers to have it added to the official warning signs list.

Read More:  Critical Thinking and the GPS Mentality

Since then it has repeatedly called for the symptom list to be expanded to ensure more infections are caught in the early stages, helping to curb the spread of the virus.

They point to other countries that have recognised far more symptoms of an infection with the virus. 

For example, authorities in the US have identified more than 20 symptoms as a possible sign of a Covid infection which also include muscle aches, headache and a sore throat.

Guidance says Britons should only get tested for Covid if they are suffering from the three key warning signs, or if they are told to get swabbed by Test and Trace.

Experts say Covid cases may be dropping in England because the Euro-fuelled surge is coming to an end, coupled with the warm weather allowing people to spend more time outdoors where the virus finds it harder to spread.

Some have also suggested a lack of testing due to the school holidays may also be behind the dip in cases, because pupils no longer need to swab themselves for the virus twice a week. 

Some scientists also raised the theory yesterday that Britain was now approaching the ‘holy grail’ of herd immunity — when the virus stops spreading in the community because so many people have antibodies to fight it off.

University College London experts say around 93 per cent of people will need some form of immunity to Covid in order to stop the disease spreading. 

In their most recent estimates, they said around 87 per cent of people now have antibodies to fight the virus off.

They had previously suggested a lower proportion of people would need antibodies to stop the disease spreading in the country, but the emergence of the more transmissible Indian ‘Delta’ variant changed the goalposts. 

Dr David Matthews, a virologist from the University of Bristol, told The Telegraph: ‘In terms of herd immunity – by which we mean the virus has managed to reach everybody and therefore most people will have a level of immune memory – I suspect we’re very close to it.

Record 1.5MILLION self-isolation alerts were sent last week, official data shows 

A record 1.5million people were asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace last week, official data shows as England’s ‘pingdemic’ chaos continues to rage on.

NHS figures show nearly 690,000 alerts were given out by the app last week, the highest number since it was introduced.

A further 536,000 people were reached by call handlers, while 308,000 were asked to isolate after testing positive for the virus. 

In total, more than 3.9million people have been told to isolate since the start of July, the data shows. 

However, a single person may be identified by the app and call handlers before going on to test positive themselves — or be asked to isolate multiple times in the same month — so the true number of individuals isolating is likely to be lower.

A record 1.5million people were asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace last week, official data shows

A record 1.5million people were asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace last week, official data shows

The damning statistics come as ministers continue to face heavy criticism for refusing to ditch isolation requirements despite lifting restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick today acknowledged the system is ‘frustrating’ but continued to urge people to isolate if they are pinged.

One of the Government’s top scientific advisors yesterday said he advised ministers to adopt a ‘test and release’ strategy as early as January, but Boris Johnson has so far refused to budge on the August 16 date for scrapping self-isolation for the double-jabbed. 

Advertisement

‘Assuming nothing truly spectacularly leftfield happens then this pandemic is pretty much over for the UK. I suspect we will not see a major surge this winter, or any serious levels of fatalities.

‘The more we close the gap on the last 10 per cent who haven’t had the vaccine the better we will be. Everyone will eventually meet the virus and it is far better to do so vaccinated.’

Professor Karl Friston, one of the modellers at UCL, said: ‘We are currently close to – but not at – herd immunity, according to real-time estimates.

‘The herd immunity threshold is currently about 93 per cent but our population immunity is only 87 per cent.

‘But as witnessed by the recent decline in notification rates, we do not need to reach a herd immunity threshold to bring the effective R-number below one and, in principle, suppress viral transmission.’

Professor Friston and colleagues were behind claims that Britain was days away from reaching herd immunity back in the spring, before the Indian variant took hold. 

Scientists criticised the UCL modelling at the time, with one warning that it has a ‘history of making over-confident and over-optimistic predictions’.

Downing Street has played down suggestions that the end of Britain being in a pandemic state was in sight. ‘No one here is declaring mission accomplished,’ a source said.

Separate Test and Trace figures today showed Covid cases rose by almost a third in the week to July 21, the latest available, when almost 308,000 were spotted. But the figures lag behind the official tally by a week, meaning they won’t show a drop yet.

The system continued to buckle under the strain of the third wave after it failed to reach 14.8 per cent of Covid positive people in the latest week and ask them for close contacts. This was the highest proportion since October last year, when the second wave started to gather steam. 

There may also be hints in the data that Britons are turning away from Test and Trace amid the ‘pingdemic’, which has left supermarket shelves empty and bins uncollected because workers were forced into self-isolation after they were found to have been near a Covid case.

Data showed 14.8 per cent of people who tested positive for the virus were not reached in the latest week, or almost 44,000 Covid-infected individuals.

Test and Trace marks someone down as ‘not reached’ if they do not respond to texts, phone calls and emails from the service telling them they have tested positive for the virus and need to self-isolate.

A further 23 per cent of Covid-positive cases who were reached were marked as unable to provide details of their close contacts, the highest proportion since February when the second wave was dying down.

Health News | Mail Online