UK records 3,105 more Covid-19 cases and 27 new deaths – but separate figures reveal fatalities have dropped to another low in England and Wales with just 78 victims last week
- The 3,105 cases take the total number of positive tests since the virus was first spotted in the UK to 374,228
- Separate figures reveal deaths from Covid-19 in England and Wales plunged to numbers as low as mid-March
- Dip marks 23 per cent drop from last week, where 101 deaths were recorded according to the ONS
- On March 7 to 13 just five deaths were recorded. That had jumped to as many as 103 by the following week
- The total number of deaths across England and Wales also fell below the five-year average in the week
- But the ONS said this may be due to the August bank holiday slowing down the reporting of deaths
The UK today recorded another 3,105 cases of the coronavirus as the outbreak continues to grow, while separate figures show the number of Covid-19 deaths has dropped to a six-month low.
Government statistics show the UK’s rolling seven-day average of daily infections has tipped 3,000, after doubling in a fortnight following a sudden spike in cases. Some 2,621 infections were recorded yesterday.
Cases had dropped to record lows at the start of July when national restrictions were lifted, and slowly climbed throughout August. But they have rocketed in the past two weeks. For comparison, just 1,339 Britons were testing positive for the coronavirus every day at the start of September, on average.
Health officials also announced 27 laboratory-confirmed deaths across all settings, up from the nine recorded yesterday but down on the 32 confirmed last Tuesday.
It comes as separate figures released today revealed the number of people dying from coronavirus in England and Wales has plunged to the lowest level since mid-March, before the peak of the pandemic struck.
Only 78 people died from Covid-19 in the week ending September 4, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The dip marks a 23 per cent drop from last week, when 101 deaths were recorded.
Just five coronavirus deaths — either suspected or laboratory-confirmed — were registered between March 7 to 13, two weeks before the lockdown was imposed. The 25-week low is a nose-dive from the peak of the pandemic, when 8,000-plus deaths from the coronavirus were being registered every week.
Government figures show deaths have yet to spike in line with soaring cases, which have doubled in the space of a fortnight — around 3,000 Britons are now testing positive each day but only 12 are dying, on average.
Top experts believe this is because young people, who aren’t as vulnerable to the disease, are driving the second wave and that doctors are better prepared for the disease. Evidence from Sweden and the US — where deaths didn’t spike in line with soaring cases — suggests Britain may avoid a second wave of deaths.
Infections are now beginning to increase across all age-groups in Britain, including the elderly. It can take patients several weeks to succumb to the life-threatening infection, meaning deaths may not start to trickle through for at least another week.
Hospital admissions, another way of measuring the pandemic, have also started to increase in the past week, with 143 coronavirus patients admitted for care on September 12 in England alone — the most up-to-date figure. For comparison, it had dropped to as low as 25 at the end of August.
Experts insist the UK doesn’t yet need to panic over the rising number of cases because they are only a fraction of the 100,000-plus that occurred each day during the darkest period of the crisis. Other scientists, however, say action is needed to prevent Britain being hit by another wave of the disease.
In other developments to Britain’s coronavirus crisis today:
- Up to 250,000 Brits are waiting for their Covid-19 test result because of a backlog in Government laboratories which has meant thousands of swabs are being held up in a process that is only supposed to take 24 hours;
- Britons travelling to the European Union could soon face quarantine on arrival across the board as countries consider whether to adopt a standardised threshold for imposing self-isolation rules;
- Priti Patel vowed to snitch on her own neighbours if they break the Covid ‘Rule of Six’ as police complained they have had no guidance on how to enforce the draconian new restrictions on ‘mingling’;
- Britain’s coronavirus lockdown led to an extra 3,600 deaths from preventable heart conditions and strokes, a top cardiologist warned;
- Around 300 schools in England and Wales have been forced to close or send pupils home after positive Covid tests, it was revealed.
SWEDEN AND US DATA SUGGEST DEATHS MAY NOT FOLLOW CASES SURGE
The UK’s rise of of 21,300 cases in the last week – more than double the figure of 8,700 two weeks ago – has sparked fears that Britain is following in the footsteps of France and Spain which have both seen alarming spikes in virus cases.
But despite warnings from the WHO that Europe’s death toll is likely to mount in the autumn, experts hope that the second peak will be less deadly because patients are typically younger and doctors are better prepared for the disease.
In Sweden, the death rate has been falling steadily since April despite a peak of cases in the summer – with the country’s top epidemiologist saying that deaths can be kept low without drastic lockdown measures.
France recorded its highest-ever spike in cases with more than 10,000 on Saturday, but deaths are nowhere near the mid-April peak and the country’s PM says it must ‘succeed in living with this virus’ without going back into lockdown.
In the United States, cases surged to record levels in July and August after the first wave had receded – but death rates in summer hotspots such as Texas and Florida were well below those in New York City where the virus hit hardest in the spring.
In Sweden, which raised eyebrows around the world by keeping shops and restaurants open throughout the pandemic, deaths have been falling since April.
There are fears that the UK will experience a rise in the number of people dying of coronavirus as a direct result of cases surging. But data shows otherwise – the US has almost completely avoided a second wave in Covid-19 deaths despite seeing a huge increase in the number of people infected since June
Despite seeing a new surge in coronavirus infections, Sweden has recorded a continuing fall in fatalities since the start of May
Only 11 new deaths were announced last week, down from a peak of 752 fatalities in seven days in mid-April.
Cases reached their height in Sweden in the second half of June, when some days saw more than 1,000 infections – but the death toll continued to fall regardless.
Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who has become the face of the no-lockdown strategy, said in a recent interview that voluntary hygiene measures had been ‘just as effective’ as complete shutdowns.
‘The rapidly declining cases we see in Sweden right now is another indication that you can get the number of cases down quite a lot in a country without having a complete lockdown,’ he told Unherd.
Tegnell added that ‘deaths are not so closely connected to the amount of cases you have in a country’, saying the death rate was more closely linked to whether older people are being infected and how well the health system can cope.
‘Those things will influence mortality a lot more, I think, than the actual spread of the disease,’ he said.
Deaths being announced each day by the Department of Health have tumbled since the peak of Britain’s Covid-19 crisis, with more than 1,000 patients killed on some days in April.
The most up-to-date government coronavirus death toll updated this afternoon stood at 41,664. It takes into account victims who have died within 28 days of testing positive.
The deaths data does not represent how many Covid-19 patients died within the last 24 hours. It is only how many fatalities have been reported and registered with the authorities.
And the figure does not always match updates provided by the home nations. Department of Health officials work off a different time cut-off, meaning daily updates from Scotland and Northern Ireland are out of sync.
The toll announced by NHS England every day, which only takes into account fatalities in hospitals, doesn’t match up with the DH figures because they work off a different recording system.
For instance, some deaths announced by NHS England bosses will have already been counted by the Department of Health, which records fatalities ‘as soon as they are available’.
The government’s official toll is different to the figures compiled by the ONS, which includes suspected fatalities where coronavirus was mentioned on a death certificate and not just lab-confirmed ones.
ONS data released today also revealed the total number of deaths in England and Wales has also fallen below the five-year average for the first time in a month, dropping 15.7 per cent below the average expected. Experts said this was because it contained the August bank holiday, which would have caused a recording lag.
And they revealed influenza and pneumonia was to blame for around 12.8 per cent of all deaths in the seven-day spell, twelve times more than coronavirus (1 per cent).
There have been 57,528 deaths in the UK where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate, including 52,420 in England and Wales, 4,231 in Scotland and 877 in Northern Ireland. Statisticians say the excess death toll — how many people victims were confirmed compared to the five-year average — stands at around 60,000.
There were a total of 8,996 deaths in England and Wales in the week ending September 4, which is 1,341 fewer deaths than the previous week and 1,403 deaths below the five-year average.
It is the first week that they have dropped below the average since August 13, with every region seeing fewer deaths than expected.
The South East registered the most deaths, at 1,208, followed by the North West, at 1,057, and the East of England, at 806.
Similarly, the South East registered the most deaths from coronavirus during the week, at 17, followed by the North West, at 13, and Yorkshire and the Humber and East Midlands, which both saw 10 deaths.
The number of deaths from coronavirus in Wales increased to four deaths, from three last week, although their average number of deaths remained below the five-year average.
The overall number of deaths in Wales also dropped from 591 last week to 488. Only 0.8 per cent of these involved coronavirus.
The ONS said that the drop may be explained by the August bank holiday weekend, contained during this week, meaning fewer officials on hand to register and process coronavirus deaths.
They wrote: ‘The week ending 4 September contained the late August bank holiday, which would have contributed to the decreased number of deaths registered and the decrease in deaths registered involving Covid-19.’
Up to 4 September 424,808 deaths were registered in the UK, which stands 52,872 above the five-year average.
Of those registered, as many as 52,376 mentioned coronavirus on the death certificate, accounting for 12.3 per cent of all deaths in England and Wales.
All figures are provisional and based on death registrations, which can result in a lag between the date the person dies and when it is recorded.
In the week up to September 4 the UK registered below 2,000 new coronavirus cases a day, reaching a peak of 1,940 on September 4.
There are concerns that the recent wave of infections, which have stayed above 2,000 new cases a day for more than a week, could result in a spike in the death rate two to four weeks later.
But the infections are mostly concentrated in young people, according to the Government, which are at a much lower risk of dying from the infection than older generations.
ARE DEATHS GOING TO RISE IN LINE WITH CASES?
Government figures show deaths have yet to spike in line with soaring cases, which have doubled in the space of a fortnight — around 3,000 Britons are now testing positive each day but only 12 are dying, on average.
Top experts say this is because young people, who aren’t as vulnerable to the disease, are driving the second wave.
But cases are rising across all age-groups, including the elderly. It can take patients several weeks to succumb to the life-threatening infection, meaning deaths may not start to trickle through for at least another week.
Hospital admissions, another way of measuring the pandemic, have also started to increase in the past week, with 143 coronavirus patients admitted for care on September 12 in England alone — the most up-to-date figure.
For comparison, it had dropped to as low as 25 at the end of August.
Top experts insist the UK doesn’t yet need to panic over the rising numbers because they are only a fraction of the 100,000-plus that occurred each day during the darkest period of the crisis.
Other scientists, however, say action is needed to prevent Britain being hit by another wave of the disease.
Despite this, however, officials have expressed concern that they could pass the virus on to older generations, which could then lead to a rise in the death rate.
It can take up to a week for coronavirus tests to be processed, meaning that the number of cases reported in the week up to September 4 actually reflect the situation in the UK a week earlier.
Paul Hunter, associate professor at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline last week he expects the death rate may also start going up ‘within the next two weeks’.
An increased rate of new infections may overwhelm the UK’s track and trace system, which would force authorities to re-impose some lockdown restrictions.
Increased demand for testing has already overwhelmed the UK’s testing system, with no tests being available in any of the ten coronavirus hotspots in England.
Those trying to book tests are greeted with a message on the website telling them that the service is ‘very busy’ and that more appointments will be posted ‘soon’.
The system works by allowing testing centres to upload appointments, which are then booked on a first-come-first-serve basis.
But in recent weeks there are mounting fears that those who do not need tests, and those without coronavirus symptoms, are booking them due to concerns over infection.
Matt Hancock said last week he had heard cases of whole schools trying to book tests, or those having one because they were concerned about travelling abroad, which had overwhelmed the system.
NHS trusts expressed concern this morning that their staff are unable to get tested when they display symptoms of the virus, meaning they sometimes spend weeks before they are allowed back in to work, which in turn leaves hospitals under-staffed as they try to manage a post-coronavirus backlog.
The UK could be forced to draft in science students to staff coronavirus testing labs which are buckling under the pressure of surging demand for swabs.
A nationwide testing fiasco has left doctors and nurses unable to work because they can’t get checked for the illness, preventing the NHS getting back to normal.
Hospital admissions, another way of measuring the pandemic, have also started to increase in the past week, with 143 coronavirus patients admitted for care on September 12 in England alone — the most up-to-date figure. For comparison, it had dropped to as low as 25 at the end of August
MASSIVE QUEUES BUILD-UP OUTSIDE COVID-19 TESTING CENTRES
Massive queues built-up outside coronavirus testing centres in England today as the government’s shambolic swab system descended into further chaos and Matt Hancock was forced to admit the fiasco will last for several weeks.
Long lines were pictured at sites in Southend, Bury, Birmingham and Manchester as the Health Secretary faced a grilling in Parliament over the system which has left doctors, nurses, care home residents and teachers all unable to get checked for the life-threatening disease.
Outraged residents in some parts of the country have complained about being forced to drive hundreds of miles for Covid-19 testing. But frustrating images revealed some testing sites were deserted today, with workers left twiddling their thumbs and fighting their boredom on their phones.
The Health Secretary admitted up to 250,000 Britons are waiting for their Covid-19 test result because of a mammoth backlog in Government laboratories, which has meant tens of thousands of swabs are being held up in a process that is only supposed to take 24 hours.
In response to criticism from furious MPs today, he said there is a hold-up of ‘less than a day’s capacity’ caused by ‘operational challenges’ in laboratories. The Department of Health claims it can process 245,000 swab tests per day.
His system — which ministers promised would be ‘world-beating’ and is crucial to keeping the pandemic at bay by squashing local outbreaks before they spiral out of control — came under fire after an investigation revealed no swab tests were available for residents in England’s 10 hotspots yesterday afternoon.
Labour branded the service an ‘utter farce’ and ‘a fiasco’, with the shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth revealing NHS patients are now having their operations cancelled because of the testing crisis. Swabs have even had to be flown to Germany and Italy for analysis because of the hold-up in Britain.
Furious MPs said their constituents have been directed to testing centres dozens or hundreds of miles away from their homes, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, said the issue was ‘unacceptable’ and pressured Mr Hancock and his ministers to get a grip and take ‘urgent action’.
A huge queue of people is pictured outside a coronavirus testing centre at Southend-on-Sea, Essex, at 8am this morning. Many of the people reportedly turned up hoping they would be allowed in, but hadn’t made appointments
In another humiliating blow to the testing system, headteachers have warned that schools — which were closed for months because of the pandemic — will ‘grind to a halt’ if teachers can’t get tested quickly.
One in Preston said this morning that he already has two staff self-isolating at home and struggling to get tested, along with 10 children.
Health officials have blamed the crisis – which experts fear will rumble on for weeks – on a staffing shortage in laboratories. Desperate bosses have now admitted they may have to hire students to plug gaps in the rota in the face of sky-high demand.
Chief executive of NHS Trusts Chris Hopson told the Today programme this morning: ‘It’s clear there are capacity problems with the testing regime.
‘Trust leaders from Bristol, Leeds and London have all raised concerns about the lack of testing availability, leading to greater levels of staff absence.
‘NHS trusts are working in the dark – they don’t know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests.’
But government sources say the actual cause of the crisis is a ‘secret in Whitehall’, while one leading scientist said labs appear to be fully staffed and working normally and that the Department of Health may be wrong about its maximum capacity.
Backlog in the system means government ministers are reportedly considering restricting coronavirus tests and refusing ‘frivolous’ requests from people who don’t need to be swabbed.
Patients have been told to travel hundreds of miles, even to different countries, for tests because there are none available nearby, and swabs have also had to be flown to Germany and Italy for analysis.
The blunder was unveiled by an investigation by the LBC radio station yesterday that found there were no test bookings available at any of the country’s ten coronavirus hotspots including Bolton, Salford, Bradford and Manchester.
But Priti Patel today denied that tests were unavailable in the country’s worst-hit areas. The Home Secretary told BBC Breakfast today that she has seen with her own eyes that swabs are available in towns hit by local lockdown rules.
Oxford University’s Sir John Bell, who has been advising Number 10 on testing, says the testing fiasco has likely been caused by a ‘second wave’ of Covid-19, triggering a surge in demand for tests.
Professor Alan McNally, who helped set up the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab, said a ‘perfect storm’ of events have crashed the testing system. He described the situation as ‘worrying’ because it has happened before the winter and admitted there were ‘clearly underlying issues which nobody wants to tell us about’.
Ms Patel said it was ‘wrong to say’ that there were no tests available after she was quizzed about the long delays in trying to book a test in Bolton where the infection rate is the highest in England.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, she said: ‘Tests are available, you’ve heard me say, particularly in local lockdown areas, I’ve seen this myself, I’ve seen the teams that have been working on this.
‘Mobile testing is going in, capacity is going into local areas where lockdowns have been undertaken and are taking place.
‘I think it is wrong to say tests are not available, new book-in slots are being made available every single day, mobile testing units are being made available.
‘And on top of that home testing kits are being issued across the country but specifically in local lockdown areas.’
But the Home Secretary added: ‘Clearly there is much more work that needs to be undertaken with Public Health England and the actual public health bodies in those particular local areas.
‘As a Government we work with Public Health England to surge where there is demand in local hotspot areas and we continue to do that.’
On access to testing, she said the majority of tests are available within a 10-mile radius.
‘It seems to me there’ll be extreme cases where people can’t get to test locations within that radius but that doesn’t mean that Public Health England are not working night and day to boost capacity,’ she added.
NEARLY 500,000 PATIENTS HAVE BEEN WAITING AT LEAST SIX WEEKS FOR KEY TESTS
Nearly half a million patients have been waiting six weeks or more for key diagnostic tests to detect cancer, heart attacks and other serious conditions.
The figures have increased 12-fold in just a year as hospitals struggle with a post-Covid backlog.
Charities fear the long waits will have a devastating impact on NHS patients, particularly those who have cancer which may become untreatable.
Separate data shows that the number of patients having cancer treatment is down by a quarter on the same time last year. The total has fallen by 6,647 to 21,599.
Yesterday the Mail revealed that hospital admissions had plummeted across seven serious illnesses.
There is a growing backlog of patients who were unable to receive treatment at the height of the pandemic and who are now at risk of serious complications.
This number is continuing to rise because social distancing and infection control measures mean hospitals can deal with only a limited number of patients.
The latest NHS data shows that 489,647 patients had been waiting more than six weeks for one of 15 key diagnostic tests in July, the last month for which there are figures.
A shocking 291,982 of them had been waiting at least 13 weeks.
By comparison, in July 2019, just 40,099 had been waiting six weeks or more and 5,675 for at least 13 weeks.
Michelle Mitchell of Cancer Research UK said: ‘Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on cancer services and the lives of cancer patients. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure that cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment will not be even more impacted by any future waves of Covid-19.’
Alex Norris, a Labour health spokesman, said: ‘Patients waiting for these tests cannot afford for the Government to be as slow as they have been in other areas. Some of these tests will be used to diagnose cancer, and for those patients, we know that early diagnosis leads to better treatment and survival.’
An NHS spokesman said: ‘Hospitals have been working round the clock throughout the pandemic so that patients can continue to receive vital tests and treatment while staying safe between March and July.’
The backlog is also affecting routine surgery such as hip and knee operations and NHS figures last week showed that 2.1million patients had been waiting at least 18 weeks.