Britain announces 75 more Covid-19 deaths, taking preliminary total number of victims to 42,536
Britain today recorded 75 more coronavirus deaths in the lowest Saturday rise post-lockdown, taking the total number of victims to 42,536.
The preliminary death figure is calculated by adding up coronavirus deaths across the UK in the last 24 hours, but it does not take into account fatalities in care homes in England.
It means that the total figure announced later today by the Department of Health has the potential to be significantly higher.
Broken down, the total of 75 includes 71 more deaths in hospitals in England, two in total across Scotland, one in Wales and one in Northern Ireland. Today’s figure is the lowest Saturday jump since March 21, two days before lockdown when just 56 fatalities were recorded.
It comes after it was revealed the coronavirus’s reproduction ‘R’ rate is still on the brink of spiralling out of control in three regions of England, despite the UK’s alert level being downgraded and plans to end lockdown within a fortnight being put into motion.
SAGE scientists estimate the R – the average number of people a Covid-19 patient infects – is hovering close to the dreaded number of one in London, the North West and the Midlands, despite being lower for the UK as a whole.
But scientists told MailOnline today that using the R to assess the UK’s crisis is becoming less useful because of falling prevalence of the disease in the community.
In other coronavirus developments today:
- Drinkers have gathered outside pubs across Britain amid plans to give al fresco garden and street drinking the green-light, as scientists clear path for Boris to slash two-metre rule;
- Fewer than 10 countries will have an ‘air bridge’ to the UK and travelers arriving from elsewhere could have to pay for a COVID-19 test to avoid 14-day quarantine;
- The Government has been accused of underplaying coronavirus death toll at height of crisis as it is revealed more than 1,000 people died every day in the UK for 22 consecutive days;
- Boris plans to get all children back to school in September as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced plans to double the size of class ‘bubbles’ to allow up to 30 pupils in classrooms at once;
- The ‘R’ number is hovering close to one in the North West, Midlands and London – but scientists say it’s NOT time to panic because lower number of cases makes measurements more volatile.
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. It must stay below one or Britain will face another crisis. Separate data released for the first time 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 minus 4 per cent. If the rate becomes greater than zero, the disease could once again spiral out of control
The R is thought to be between 0.8 and 1.0 in the Midlands, the highest of any region in Britain, and slightly lower in London and the North West, where estimates put it in the range of 0.7 and 1.0.
Covid-19’s reproduction rate must stay below one or cases will start to grow exponentially again and the UK could be faced with a second wave of the virus.
For example, an R rate of just 1.2 would mean every 10 people who became infected would pass the virus onto 12 more people. Those 12 would, in turn, infect 14 people who would then pass the disease on to more than 17, and so on.
Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University, said the fewer infected patients there are, the greater the margin for error when estimating the R value, especially when looking at specific areas of the UK.
For example, if there are only 10 cases and one of them infects three people, it would push the R rate up significantly and skew the average.
Professor Heneghan told MailOnline: ‘There is a problem with using the R rate now, as infection comes down to very low levels. The R will fluctuate, so you would expect the R to become a less accurate measurement of the epidemic. No-one will get a handle on the R rate when 80% people are asymptomatic and the virus is circulating at such low levels.
‘What really matters is looking at data such as hospital admissions, 999 calls, GP consultation rates and NHS 111 interactions. And when we look at these, all of them are reassuringly coming down.’
It comes after Britain’s ‘Covid-alert’ level was downgraded from level four to level three after scientists confirmed that the epidemic is shrinking by 4 per cent every day.
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.