The UK has announced 2,659 more coronavirus cases and eight deaths as Boris Johnson announces people must ‘limit social contact’ as much as possible again to curb the coronavirus amid rising infections.
The rise of 2,659 cases means almost 13,000 case have been diagnosed in the past four days alone – the highest numbers since mid-May.
Addressing the nation at a No10, Mr Johnson said the spike in infections seen over the past week left him no choice but to tighten lockdown across England for the first time since March, blasting hopes life would return to normality by Christmas, as previously set out.
The Prime Minister, flanked by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, said: ‘We must act… You must not meet socially in groups more than six’, while reminding people to wash their hands, wear face masks and socially distance.
He told the House of Commons earlier today that the draconian measures are essential to ‘keep our economy going and schools open’, and that closing education settings was the ‘very very last resort’.
The crack down on social gatherings was sparked by concern that partying young people are fuelling a flare-up in cases. Mr Johnson said the move to crack down on social gatherings was aimed at ‘simplifying and strengthening the rules on social contact’ and ‘making them easier to understand and for the police to enforce’.
But the PM admitted lockdown rules have become ‘complicated and confusing’. The Government have been encouraging Britons to return to work, eat out in restaurants and shop confidently over the past few months.
Professor Chris Whitty said the new restrictions will last for a ‘block of time’ and should not be seen as a short term measure. But ‘putting an exact time on it is very difficult’, he said.
The chief medical officer revealed cases were not rising as a result of increased testing, as described by some scientists, and were in fact a ‘real phenomenon’.
Data shows the UK is following a pattern ‘extremely similar’ to France which appears to be a couple of weeks ahead. But if ‘decisive actions’ are taken, the coronavirus can be kept under control – as has been seen in Belgium, Professor Whitty reassured.
Although cases have clearly started to trend upwards, they are nowhere near what was seen at the peak of the pandemic. King’s College London, using its coronavirus tracking app, estimate there were 100,000 people catching the coronavirus every day at the worst point, compared to some 3,000 now.
And the UK is far more equipped to deal with outbreaks now than it was then, with better treatments for the most sick, testing capacity and a contact tracing system, albeit it imperfect.
But the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he cannot rule out a second lockdown in England if it were to become necessary.
Addressing the nation at a No10, Mr Johnson said the spike in infections seen over the past week left him no choice but to tighten lockdown across England for the first time since March
Data from the Covid Symptom Tracker app, run by King’s College London, shows there were days in March and April when more than 100,000 cases of coronavirus were estimated to have been caught in the UK. But testing figures were showing fewer than 6,500, meaning that the numbers of cases now cannot be compared like for like, because the currently estimated number of new cases is around 3,200 and many of them are now being picked up by tests, whereas only a vanishingly small number were at the start
In other coronavirus developments today;
- Oxford and AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine trial is put on hold for safety reasons after a British volunteer had a ‘serious’ reaction that could have been caused by injection;
- Business leaders, MPs and scientists told the Prime Minister not to lock Britain down again, with one think-tank warning a second shutdown would be ‘catastrophic’;
- Birmingham faces looming lockdown as West Midlands mayor admits city-wide restrictions now ‘very likely’ as symptom-tracking app warns infections are rising across the UK;
- The number of patients waiting for an organ transplant has risen to a five-year high because of the pandemic.
CORONAVIRUS CASES NOW DO NOT COMPARE LIKE-FOR-LIKE WITH SPRING CRISIS WHEN 100,000 PER DAY WERE CATCHING IT
The Government has warned repeatedly in recent weeks that coronavirus cases are rising in Britain and officials today announced rules on socialising must tighten up again.
Official testing figures show the numbers of people getting positive results has started to return to levels last seen in May, while the country was still in lockdown.
But data shows this comparison is misleading as some scientists estimate more than 100,000 people per day were catching the illness at the end of March but not getting tested.
Data from the Covid Symptom Tracker app, run by King’s College London and healthcare technology company ZOE, showed that the number of estimated cases in the UK on March 30 was 1,779,303 and it had risen by 102,200 from a day earlier.
But official testing then showed only 3,250 new cases, from just over 8,000 tests.
So 3,000 positive cases now, when around 180,000 tests are done each day, does not compare like-for-like because there are so many more negatives.
Rationed testing in the spring meant only a fraction of people who were carrying the disease were actually tested – mostly those sick enough to be in hospital.
Data from the Covid Symptom Tracker, run by King’s College London, shows there were days in March and April when more than 100,000 cases of coronavirus were estimated to have been caught in the UK, but testing figures were showing fewer than 6,500
Official testing figures suggest no more than 6,500 people ever caught the virus in a day, meaning the rises now are approaching scary levels but they are not comparable because testing now catches so many more hidden cases
At times, more than 40 per cent of people getting tested were getting positive results, with a high positive rate showing a large proportion of people who thought they had Covid-19 really did, and many more were probably going missed.
Now, however, the positive test rate is around two per cent, meaning most people who think they have coronavirus actually don’t, so there are likely fewer missed cases.
Addressing the first Downing Street press conference since July, Mr Johnson said that ‘if we are to beat the virus then everyone, at all times, should limit social contact as much as possible’.
‘It is safer to meet outdoors and you should keep your distance from anyone you don’t live with, even if they are close friends or family,’ he said.
‘So in England, from Monday, we are introducing the rule of six. You must not meet socially in groups of more than six – and if you do, you will be breaking the law.
‘This will apply in any setting, indoors or outdoors, at home or in the pub.
‘The ban will be set out in law and it will be enforced by the police – anyone breaking the rules risks being dispersed, fined and possibly arrested.’
The limit – sparked by concerned that partying young people are fuelling a flare-up – is a dramatic reduction on the maximum of 30 put in place on July 4 and will be enforced by police with £100 fines, doubling on each repeat offence up to £3,200.
It’s the first tightening nationwide since the national lockdown in March, although several hotspots in England have already contended with stricter rules on social gatherings.
Pubs and restaurants will also be legally obliged to collect contact information to support the Test and Trace system. Before they were only asked to in government guidance. A 10pm curfew may also be imposed in England should the measures fail to halt the spread of coronavirus, reports suggest.
Mr Johnson told the No10 briefing that he knew the rules had become ‘quite complicated and confusing’ over the course of the crisis.
‘We are responding, and we are simplifying and strengthening the rules, making them easier for everyone to understand,’ he said.
He went on: ‘This rule of six will of course throw up difficult cases, for example two whole households will no longer be able to meet if they would together exceed the limit of six people and I’m sorry about that, and I wish that we did not have to take this step.
‘But as your Prime Minister, I must do what is necessary to stop the spread of the virus and to save lives. And of course we will keep the rule of six under constant review and only keep it in place as long as is necessary.’
He insisted draconian new coronavirus restrictions are essential to ‘keep our economy going and schools open’ and that the spike in infections seen over the past week left him no choice but to act.
The PM told the House of Commons the ‘rule of six’ on how many people can socialise will become ‘familiar to the country’, signalling that the situation is unlikely to ease any time soon – a major setback for his ambition to get back to normal by Christmas.
But he said at the No10 press briefing this afternoon he was ‘still hopeful’ that many aspects of life would return in time for Christmas. Apart from a vaccine, he said the only other way out before Christmas was a ‘moonshot’ of introducing mass daily testing for everyone.
He added that he hoped rapid pregnancy style tests, currently being analysed by health chiefs, will allow people a ‘passport’ and ‘freedom to mingle’ if it gives a negative result in 20 to 90 minutes.
Mr Johnson said: ‘We want to start identifying people who are negative, who don’t have the coronavirus and are not infectious, so we can allow them to behave in a more normal way.’
No rapid tests that can be conducted by a person in their own home has been approved yet. But ministers have been talking about them for several weeks, giving hope people will be able to test themselves on a regular basis. Mr Johnson said: ‘We cannot be 100 per cent sure we can deliver that in its entirety.’
He added, ‘we are working hard to increase our testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October’, referring to tests led by laboratories.
Mr Hancock also insisted today that despite the tough steps to crackdown on socialising, it was still right for people to return to offices. He said workplaces were ‘Covid secure’ and evidence showed almost all transmission happened in social settings.
But revealing the tightening overnight, he said: ‘We need to act now to stop the virus spreading. So we are simplifying and strengthening the rules on social contact – making them easier to understand and for the police to enforce.
‘It is absolutely critical that people now abide by these rules and remember the basics – washing your hands, covering your face, keeping space from others, and getting a test if you have symptoms.’
LOCKDOWNS IN THE UK
Wales’s health minister has said local lockdown in the county borough of Caerphilly will not be lifted until October ‘at the very least’.
People will not be allowed to enter or leave the area without a reasonable excuse after the restrictions come into force at 6pm on Tuesday.
Everyone over the age of 11 will be required to wear face coverings in shops – the first time this will be mandatory in Wales. Meetings with other people indoors and extended households will not be allowed, while overnight stays have also been banned.
Lockdown restrictions on household visits across western parts of Scotland have been continued for a further week – as well as being extended to other council areas.
Measures – originally introduced in Glasgow, East Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire – now also apply to East Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire.
The restrictions bar people from visiting separate households in these parts of the country, while also prohibiting them from visiting homes in other local authorities which have not been impacted.
The measures also mean indoor visits to hospitals and care homes will be limited to essential visits only to protect the most vulnerable.
Hospitality venues are being restricted to takeaway-only in Bolton as part of new measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the town, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told MPs.
Bolton Council said on Saturday it was introducing tougher measures ‘with immediate effect’, with people asked not to mix with other households in any setting, either indoors or outdoors, and to only use public transport for essential purposes.
The council said the new restrictions aim to prevent a local lockdown, after the town’s infection rate increased to 99 cases per 100,000 people per week – the highest in England.
Those aged between 18 and 49 account for more than 90 per cent of the cases, the local authority said.
Parts of Greater Manchester, East Lancashire, Preston, and West Yorkshire
If people live in one of the affected areas they must not host people they do not live with in their home or garden, unless they are in their support bubble.
You also must not meet people you do not live with in their home or garden, whether inside or outside of the affected area, unless they are in your support bubble, according to the Government website.
A support bubble is where a household with one adult joins with another household. Households within a bubble can still visit each other, stay overnight, and visit public places together.
Blackburn, Oldham and Pendle
As with the above, there is a ban on two households mixing indoors or in a garden.
People should not visit friends or family in care homes, other than in exceptional circumstances.
And in specific areas with additional restrictions, people should not socialise with people they do not live with at indoor public venues or outdoor venues such as parks.
People should not have visitors to their homes or socialise with people they do not live with in other indoor public venues such as pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues, or visitor attractions.
They also should not visit friends or family in care homes, other than in exceptional circumstances.
There are no local lockdown measures in Northern Ireland so far.
Mr Hancock told Sky News earlier today that the restrictions were ‘absolutely vital to protect life’. ‘We’ve seen the increase in the number of cases sadly in the last few days. We’ve seen that across Europe there’s a second wave that many countries have experienced.
‘Some of those countries have then got that second wave under control. If you look at what’s happened in Belgium they saw an increase and then they’ve brought it down, whereas in France and Spain that just hasn’t happened.’
The new England-wide measure were sparked after cases topped 2,000 for three days running – taking the UK well above the threshold where it considers placing travel restrictions on other countries.
Britain’s Covid-19 death toll has increased by eight across all settings today. But Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not announced further fatalities today, suggesting these deaths were just in England.
Today the Scottish government announced 159 new cases of coronavirus. Wales reported 165 more cases, and Northern Ireland 49.
As the First Minister revealed new cases in Scotland, she said the country was at a ‘very dangerous point’. Nicola Sturgeon revealed that the average daily number of new cases over the past seven days is 155 – almost triple the average of 52 three weeks ago.
Scientists have previously reassured that some of the rise in cases will be due to increased testing in places where coronavirus is spreading more. Although there has been an uptick in cases, the positive test rate – how many people test positive out of all those tested – has not risen significantly.
But today, Professor Chris Whitty said it was important to now recognise that test positivity is rising, even if not reaching the levels seen during the peak of the pandemic.
He said the climbing cases were ‘not just due to increased testing, but a real phenomenon’.
Test positivity is generally hovering about 2.3 per cent for those in the community, according to Public Health England’s situation report last Friday. It is around 0.5 per cent for hospitals, and has not gone above three per cent since June.
This compares with 44.1 per cent of ‘pillar one’ tests – done in hospitals and PHE labs – coming back positive in the week up to April 7.
According to King’s College London, some 3,164 people are catching the coronavirus each day on average. It’s the highest June and a sharp increase on last weeks 2,000.
However it’s a far cry from the early stages of the pandemic, when cases jumped up by more than 100,000 per day in a couple of instances. This is based on symptoms and test results reported by app users, and only accounts for transmission in the community, and not in care homes and hospitals.
Mr Hancock refused to rule out a second lockdown this morning, despite assurances by the Prime Minister.
Speaking to LBC, Mr Hancock said: ‘Our goal is to avoid having to do anything more drastic by people following the rules.’
But he would not rule out a return to lockdown, saying: ‘I wouldn’t make a vow like that.
‘You wouldn’t expect me to – I am the Health Secretary in the middle of a pandemic where we are trying to keep the country safe.’
But he added he ‘hoped’ lockdown could be avoided, saying: ‘The number of cases is largely driven by people socialising.’
Boris Johnson was last night urged by business leaders, MPs and scientists to think very carefully before imposing a new lockdown in response to a spike in virus cases, with one think-tank warning a second shutdown would be ‘catastrophic’.
Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs said: ‘With UK case numbers at a fraction of where they were back in March, a second lockdown would be catastrophic and should be avoided.’
Responding to last night’s Government announcement that social gatherings of more than six people will be banned from Monday, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘This is just mad. It’s ludicrous.
‘This will be a hammer blow to the economy just as we were starting to get things on track.
NEW LOCKDOWN RULES FOR ENGLAND FROM MONDAY
- Max social gatherings SIX PEOPLE
- Applies indoors and outdoors
- Applies in private homes
- Applies in pubs and restaurants
- Does NOT apply to schools or workplaces
- Does NOT apply to weddings, funerals, team sport
- Does NOT apply if household bubbles are bigger than six people
- Police will be encouraged to break up larger groups and issue £100 fines, which will then double on each repeat offence up to £3,200
‘Why is it that we are having this ‘push me pull you’ approach? This can’t go on.’
Former environment secretary Theresa Villiers said: ‘Going back into lockdown would be a huge setback for the economy. I hope the Government will exhaust all other possible options before they consider the drastic step of closing down the economy all over again.’
Mr Hancock has made it clear that local lockdown measures would be brought in where necessary, to further curb the spread of the disease.
Several have already been put in place to curb the spread, including in Leicester, swathes of Manchester, Lancashire and Yorkshire, parts of Scotland and Caerphilly, Wales.
These places have banned households from mixing in private homes or gardens and people are only allowed to dine out with people they already live with.
Bolton became the first place in the UK to see pubs and restaurants forced to return to take-out only yesterday after it saw a continuing surge in cases – a wake up all to the rest of the country.
Revellers take to the streets in Bolton city centre after further coronavirus lockdown measures were put in place
Pictured: People taking a coronavirus test at a walk-in facility in Bolton
With immediate effect, venues can only serve takeaway, and are obliged to close between 10pm and 5am. It’s the first time an area has seen its hospitality sector shut down since re-opening in July.
Birmingham could be the next city put back into lockdown after infection rates doubled in a week, local leaders have warned today.
West Midlands mayor Andy Street said even tougher restrictions were ‘looking likely’ now Birmingham’s case rate had jumped to 69 per 100,000, up from 30 a week ago.
Local leaders in Birmingham are meeting with national health chiefs today to thrash out a plan to curb the escalating crisis.
Mr Street told Birmingham Live: ‘Thus far, it (the virus) has concentrated in the younger age groups, that’s why we’re not saying that much increase in hospitalisations and deaths.
‘But if we don’t stop this it will translate into these elder age groups and we will have a very serious situation on our hands.’
Birmingham public health director Dr Justin Varney said: ‘This is not a false alarm – we are on the precipice and if we are not careful we will be back where we were in April and May and lives will be lost.’
Ministers have revealed that most of the new cases in the UK have been in those in their teens and 20s, while piling on pressure on young people to respect social distancing.
Analysis of Public Health England data shows cases have surged from 9.8 to 28 cases per 100,000 in those aged between 20 to 29 in England since July 4. And among teenagers, those aged 10 to 19, cases leapt from 4.1 to 16.2 per 100,000.
At the same time those over 80 saw the number of cases recorded among them drop drastically, after they made up the majority during the pandemic.
While fears grow of a severe second wave of Covid-19 hitting the UK, the fact that most cases are among younger, healthy generations offers reassurance that hospitalisations and deaths will not be a direct result of small spikes.
The UK recorded 30 more deaths from coronavirus yesterday, the highest level in six weeks.
However, although the statistic is higher than recent weeks scientists have cautioned against reading too much into one-day fluctuations and have said that broader trends are a better indicator of the situation.
There were 13 fatalities recorded on Thursday last week and a spell of three days that saw a total 44 in the last week of August.
MailOnline analysis shows infections have surged from 9.2 to 28 cases per 100,000 since July 4, ‘Super Saturday’, in those aged 20 to 29 in England
At the same time, cases in over 80 year olds have dropped drastically since the height of the pandemic, when they made up the majority of Covid-19 cases, and have halved since July. Infections have stayed stable among those in their 60s and 70s, while very slightly increasing in those between the ages of 40 to 59 years old
Although cases have risen, the positive test rate – how many people test positive out of all those tested – has not reached levels seen during the pandemic. This gives an indication that some cases are due to more focused testing in hotspots
ORGAN TRANSPLANT LIST AT A FIVE-YEAR HIGH DUE TO COVID
The number of people waiting for an organ transplant has risen to five-year high as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.
The NHS has issued an ‘urgent plea’ to people to make their loved ones aware about their wishes surrounding donation after the numbers waiting for a transplant increased.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said that an estimated 6,700 people are currently in need of a transplant across the UK – up from 6,138 prior to the start of the pandemic.
While services have made a ‘strong recovery’ and deceased donor transplants are now back to pre-Covid levels, NHSBT said that an increase in public support is needed to help people on the list get the transplants they need.
The health body has estimated that the increase in patients waiting – expected to be the highest since 2015/16 – comes after services were impacted by the effects of the pandemic.
A number of transplants were put on hold due to the risk of recipients becoming immunosupporessed.
And potential donors are not able to donate if they are positive for Covid-19, reducing the number of potential donors, NHSBT added.
It is hoped that the introduction of Max and Keira’s law – making the organ donation system in England an ‘opt out’ one – will lead to an increase in donors.
The law, which came into force in May, was named after Keira Ball, who died aged nine in 2017, and Max Johnson, now aged 12, who was saved by her heart.
The law in England follows a similar one introduced in Wales, which was introduced in 2015. Scotland is due to change to an opt-out system in Spring 2021.
Following the introduction of the law in England, families are still consulted before organ donation goes ahead, which is why health officials have implored people to make their wishes about donation known to their families.
When cases rose to almost 3,000 on Sunday it sparked ‘concern’ among ministers and warnings that the UK could be in for a ‘bumpy ride’ if the rapid increase does not slow down.
Professor Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, told MailOnline today that neither experts nor politicians ‘can know with any certainty’ if the increasing Covid-19 case rates signal an escalation of the crisis.
He said: ‘It can’t just be increased testing [causing the rise in the figures] because test positivity is increasing, although not by very much and not as much as positive tests.
‘It seems to be a mixture of more testing – targeted in areas where outbreaks are suspected – and some increase in underlying infection risk.
‘But I must say the extent of it is very uncertain, there’s no right or wrong. The data alone is not going to tell you or give you a simple answer to this.
‘There’s a lot of uncertainty – because data cannot tell you exact pattern of what’s going on , we’re still only identifying just some of people being infected.’
Another indication the coronavirus is not spiralling out of control yet is hospitalisations admissions have remained stable with just one in 100,000 people currently needing medical care for Covid-19 infection, which further supports people aren’t getting seriously sick with the disease.
Ministers will need to keep a close eye on trends in the coming weeks to assess whether spread among young people is spilling into the more at-risk groups.
Behind the scenes officials have become increasingly concerned this will be the case, with Mr Hancock using France and Spain as examples.
Data shows, however, that although hospital admissions are rising around Europe they are still low, despite thousands of cases being declared each day.
In France, for example, the weekly rate of admission to hospital is now two per 100,000, down from more than 35 at the peak of the outbreak in March. This is despite the country counting record numbers of infections in recent weeks.
And in Spain, where the admission rate was one per 100,000 in June, hospitalisations hit four per 100,000 at the end of August – still a far cry from the 50 per 100,000 being admitted in early April.
Mr Hancock claimed today that Spain’s hospitalisations had ‘risen 15 times since mid-July’. But data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control shows admissions rose by four times in that period.
Still, health officials are rattled and are cracking down on young people to stop them going to parties and large gatherings.
Coronavirus hospital admissions could start to rise in the UK in three weeks, data from other European countries suggests. When Spain, France and Belgium hit 18 cases per 100,000 (which the UK did on Sunday) they then saw admissions increase by up to four-fold
It comes as Britons report being unable to get a test despite having symptoms of coronavirus because the system directs them to testing centres more than 200 miles away.
Matt Hancock today denied claims the UK’s testing was overwhelmed, and claimed 92 per cent of those requesting a test were receiving it within ten miles of their home.
He said the system had faced a 25 per cent surge of requests from people who do not have symptoms, which are not eligible to get tested.
‘I’ve heard of cases of whole schools being sent for tests,’ he said, and added that people going on holiday had also applied to get tested.
The director of testing, Sarah-Jane Marsh, yesterday apologised to those who were not getting tests and warned they were at a ‘critical pinch-point’.
‘Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a Covid test at present,’ she wrote.
‘All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded, it’s our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point.
‘We are doing all we can to expand quickly.’
Meanwhile, scientists running the Covid Symptom Tracker mobile app have warned they are noticing a significant rise in cases across the UK and that the R rate could be 1.2.
Nearly four million of people have been using King’s College London’s app and self-reporting symptoms, which has helped scientists monitor the virus’s trajectory.
They say there has been 3,164 daily new cases of the disease on average over the two weeks up to September 4.
This is the highest number of cases the app has recorded since late June and the numbers have been climbing for the last few days.
The latest figures were based on the data from 8,456 swab tests done between 22 August to 4 September.
KCL now estimate that 30,948 people currently have symptomatic Covid-19 in the UK.
Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London said local and regional restrictions could quell the spread of the virus before it gets out of control.
He said: ‘We are now seeing a significant increase in cases in the UK with over 3,000 daily new symptomatic cases, and an estimated R value of 1.2.
‘This uptick in numbers is concerning and if we don’t get the R value down in the coming weeks, we could be looking at another national lock down, which none of us want.
‘Before taking that step, we need to use local and regional restrictions to slow the spread and get the numbers back down.’