Britain’s Covid-19 outbreak is shrinking by 4 per cent each day and the crucial R rate remains below the dreaded level of one, health chiefs confirmed today as 173 more deaths were confirmed in the official government toll – including a 12-year-old.
Number 10’s scientific advisory panel SAGE revealed the reproduction rate – the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects – is still between 0.7 and 0.9, meaning the coronavirus is firmly in retreat after terrorizing Britain for months.
Separate data released for the first time today also claimed the UK’s current growth rate – how the number of new daily cases is changing day-by-day – could be as low as -4 per cent. If the rate becomes greater than zero, the disease could once again spiral out of control.
Department of Health officials say the death toll now stands at 42,461. But the tally only includes lab-confirmed patients — unlike other damning figures that take into account all suspected deaths and show the actual number of victims has already topped 50,000.
Nicola Sturgeon today claimed the coronavirus was ‘firmly in retreat’ and Boris Johnson hinted at an imminent shift on the strict two-metre social distancing rule, after the UK’s Covid-19 threat level was dramatically reduced from four to three.
In other developments to Britain’s coronavirus crisis today:
- Covid-19 is killing black men at triple the rate of white males in the UK and Muslims are twice as likely to fall victim to the disease as non-religious Britons, official data revealed;
- A third meat factory reported a coronavirus outbreak and was forced to shut down – as experts warned that chilled environments are ideal for the virus to thrive;
- Britain’s retailers are still struggling through the coronavirus pandemic despite a much-needed 12 per cent boost in sales last month, compared with the record lows in April;
- UK debt is bigger than GDP for the first time in almost 60 years as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the economy, with the government forced to borrow £55.2billion in May;
- Apple hit back at Matt Hancock over claims its tracing app can’t detect distances and said the government hasn’t asked to work together after the NHS software was humiliatingly scrapped;
- UK society has ‘regressed to a 1950s way of living’ for many women because the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened gender inequality and left women with more childcare, Sussex University experts warned.
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE REALLY DIED?
Department of Health: 42,461
Department of Health’s latest death count for all settings stands at 42,461.
The daily 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.
It also only takes into account patients who tested positive for the virus, as opposed to deaths suspected to be down to the coronavirus.
Individual health bodies: 32,710
The Department of Health has a different time cut-off for reporting deaths, meaning daily updates from Scotland as well as Northern Ireland are always out of sync. Wales is not affected, however.
NHS England today revealed it has registered 28,221 lab-confirmed deaths across the country. But the figure only applies to hospitals — meaning fatalities in care homes are excluded from this count.
Scotland has recorded 2,470 coronavirus deaths among patients who have tested positive for the virus, followed by 1,475 in Wales and 544 in Northern Ireland. These tolls include fatalities in all settings.
National statistical bodies: 52,664
Data compiled by the statistical bodies of each of the home nations show 52,664 people died of either confirmed or suspected Covid-19 across the UK by the end of May.
The real number of victims will be even higher because the tally only takes into account deaths that occurred up until June 7 in Scotland and June 5 in the rest of Britain, meaning it is up to 10 days out of date.
The Office for National Statistics yesterday confirmed that 47,820 people in England and Wales died with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 by May 29.
The number of coronavirus deaths was 774 by the same day in Northern Ireland, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).
National Records Scotland — which collects statistics north of the border — said 4,070 people had died across the country by June 7.
Their tallies are always 10 days behind the Department of Health (DH) because they wait until as many fatalities as possible for each date have been counted, to avoid having to revise their statistics.
Excess deaths: 64,402
The total number of excess deaths has now passed 64,000.
Excess deaths are considered to be an accurate measure of the number of people killed by the pandemic because they include a broader spectrum of victims.
As well as including people who may have died with Covid-19 without ever being tested, the data also shows how many more people died because their medical treatment was postponed, for example, or who didn’t or couldn’t get to hospital when they were seriously ill.
Data from England and Wales shows there has been an extra 58,693 deaths between March 21 and June 5, as well as 4,769 in Scotland between March 23 and June 7 and 940 in Northern Ireland between March 21 and June 5.
Department of Health data released yesterday showed that 136,516 tests were carried out on Wednesday, a figure that included antibody tests for frontline NHS and care workers.
But bosses again refused to say how many people were tested, meaning the exact number of Brits who have been swabbed for the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been a mystery since May 22.
Another 1,218 cases were diagnosed, taking the official size of the outbreak past 300,000 infections. But the true scale of the crisis is estimated to be in the millions.
The daily death 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.
The data does not always match updates provided by the home nations. For example, the Scottish government yesterday announced two deaths – but the DH recorded nine north of the border.
The Department of Health has a different time cut-off, meaning daily updates from Scotland as well as Northern Ireland are always out of sync. Wales is not thought to be affected.
NHS England today announced 46 victims in hospitals. Scotland posted six fatalities in all settings, followed by four in Wales and one in Northern Ireland, which ended its two-day spell without any deaths.
The figures come as Nicola Sturgeon said today the virus was firmly in retreat in Scotland, as the nation moved into the second phase of a four-step plan for easing restrictions.
The changes allow people who live alone or solely with under-18s to meet another household indoors without physical distancing in an ‘extended household group arrangement’.
People can also now meet in larger groups outside, and other changes allow greater freedom for those who are shielding.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon stressed the ‘virus hasn’t gone away’ but added: ‘There is no doubt the virus in Scotland is now firmly in retreat.
‘That is why the changes to the rules and the guidance I announced yesterday, though significant, were also careful, because we know we have to keep the virus in retreat.
‘If we all keep doing the right thing, I am more optimistic than I have been in a long time that we are now firmly on the track to getting normality back into our lives.’
In other promising developments, the UK’s coronavirus threat level was today dramatically reduced from four to three – as the Prime Minister hinted at an imminent shift on the two-metre rule.
After weeks in which the alert was maintained despite Number 10 starting to ease lockdown, the Joint Biosecurity Centre concluded that transmission is no longer ‘high or rising exponentially’.
The move was approved by the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and it was hailed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock as a ‘big moment’ that showed the ‘government’s plan is working’.
The reduction paves the way for relaxing draconian social distancing curbs that are strangling the economy. Tories have been demanding the two-metre rule is loosened immediately, warning that schools and the hospitality sector cannot function while it remains.
Asked on a visit to a primary in Hemel Hempstead whether the restriction will be eased, Mr Johnson said: ‘Watch this space.’ He said it was ‘absolutely’ his intention to get all pupils back full-time by September.
Mr Johnson faced a backlash at the end of last month when he announced tweaks to lockdown, before it emerged that the alert had not been changed from level four – which according to the government’s own definition requires ‘current social distancing measures and restrictions’ to stay in place.
England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, was rumoured to have stood in the way of the move, although there is also thought to have been resistance from his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
WHAT IS THE R NUMBER? AND HOW IS IT CALCULATED?
WHAT IS R0?
Every infectious disease is given a reproduction number, which is known as R0 – pronounced ‘R nought’.
It is a value that represents how many people one sick person will, on average, infect.
WHAT IS THE R0 FOR COVID-19?
The R0 value for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was estimated by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team to be 2.4 in the UK before lockdown started.
But some experts analysing outbreaks across the world have estimated it could be closer to the 6.6 mark.
Estimates of the R0 vary because the true size of the pandemic remains a mystery, and how fast the virus spreads depends on the environment.
It will spread faster in a densely-populated city where people travel on the subway than it will in a rural community where people drive everywhere.
HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO OTHER VIRUSES?
It is thought to be at least three times more contagious than the coronavirus that causes MERS (0.3 – 0.8).
Measles is one of the most contagious infectious diseases, and has an R0 value of 12 to 18 if left uncontrolled. Widespread vaccination keeps it suppressed in most developed countries.
Chickenpox’s R0 is estimated to be between 10 and 12, while seasonal flu has a value of around 1.5.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE A LOW R0?
The higher the R0 value, the harder it is for health officials control the spread of the disease.
A number lower than one means the outbreak will run out of steam and be forced to an end. This is because the infectious disease will quickly run out of new victims to strike.
HOW IS IT CALCULATED?
Experts use multiple sources to get this information, including NHS hospital admissions, death figures and behavioural contact surveys which ask people how much contact they are having with others.
Using mathematical modelling, scientists are then able to calculate the virus’ spread.
But a lag in the time it takes for coronavirus patients to fall unwell and die mean R predictions are always roughly three weeks behind.