Coronavirus cases continued to fall after some lockdown measures were eased, a major study revealed today.
Some 123 Britons were diagnosed with the infection out of a sample size of nearly 160,000 people between June 9 and July 8 — an incidence rate of 0.07 per cent. This was down by almost half from May, when 159 people out of 120,620 tested positive (0.13 per cent).
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the research showed ‘we were able to keep rates of infection low as some restrictions were lifted’.
Non-essential shops were allowed to reopen on June 15, and ministers allowed single-person households to mix with other homes for the first time since the lockdown was introduced on March 23.
But the effect of the changes on July 4 — when the two-metre social distancing rule was halved and pubs, restaurants and cinemas reopened — won’t be felt until the Imperial College London team’s next report.
Cases appear to have slowly crept up since ‘Super Saturday’, according to the Government’s official statistics. Around 800 people are catching the virus a day — up from a four-month low of 546 on July 8.
The same study also found more than eight in 10 people who tested positive for coronavirus in June and July had no symptoms.
Some 123 Britons were diagnosed with the infection out of a sample size of nearly 160,000 people between June 9 and July 8 — an incidence rate of 0.07 per cent. This was down by almost half from May, when 159 people out of 120,620 tested positive (0.13 per cent)
The REACT-1 study was carried out by Imperial, its sister NHS trust and the market research firm Ipsos MORI.
It is the largest research of its kind in the UK and involved testing a random 160,000 people with nasal and throat swabs to check for current infection between June 19 and July 8.
The study also found 81 per cent of the latest batch of patients were asymptomatic and showed no signs of the illness.
Normally, experts would expect around half of infected people to suffer from symptoms such a new, persistent cough, fever or a loss of taste or smell.
For comparison, 69 per cent of people who tested positive in the study’s first period – from May 1 to June 1 — were found to be asymptomatic.
But it is likely a chunk of these asymptomatic patients went on to develop symptoms later because the virus has an average incubation period of five days.
However, the sheer volume of cases without symptoms highlights how difficult it is for public health officials to contain the virus’ spread.
The report warned these people were likely ‘a source of ongoing transmission’ that are helping the disease enjoy a resurgence in the UK.
Thousands of coronavirus deaths ‘will be wiped off the government’s official toll’
Thousands of coronavirus deaths are set to be wiped from the government’s official count, it was claimed today.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last month ordered an urgent review into how daily death counts are calculated in England because of a ‘statistical flaw’.
Academics found a glitch in Public Health England’s methods that meant ministers counted victims as anyone who died after ever testing positive for Covid-19 — even if they were hit by a bus after beating the disease months later.
It would’ve meant that, technically, no-one could ever recover from the virus and all 265,000 of England’s confirmed patients would eventually have had their deaths attributed to the disease.
The blunder could see up to 4,000 deaths removed from England’s official toll of 41,749, according to reports.
Mr Hancock is set to bring the figures in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland, which only attribute deaths to Covid-19 if it occurs within a month of their diagnosis.
The Health Secretary is expected to announce the new measurement by the end of the week following the two-week review into the counting fiasco.
The statistical flaw was uncovered by Oxford University’s Professor Carl Heneghan and Dr Yoon Loke, from the University of East Anglia.
Professor Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the prestigious university, told the Sun: ‘It is a sensible decision. There is no point attributing deaths to Covid 28 days after infection.
‘All it does is muddy the water. While deaths are falling in Scotland, PHE data suggests matters are worse in England.
‘But if it’s someone who picked up the virus in a care home in March and recovered, and last week died of a heart attack, what does that actually tell us?’
But the study found that there was an ‘increased infection intensity in and near London’ during the same time period.
The capital had a prevalence rate of 0.15 per cent, which was more than double the national average (0.07 per cent). Twenty-three out of 15,750 Londoners tested positive.
The researchers estimate that, in total, there were 40,000 people in England with Covid-19 at any one time, compared with 74,000 in May.
They found that there were no difference in prevalence of the virus between different age groups or sexes.
But they said that people from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds were ‘more likely’ to test positive, although they did not reveal exact figures.
BAME people have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, for reasons scientists can’t quite pin down.
They believe it may be a mixture of social factors, including the fact BAME people are more likely to live in deprived areas, live in large households and use public transport, where they interact with more potential carriers of the disease
The report also found no difference in infection rates among health and social care workers compared to the general public.
This suggests measures to curb transmission of the virus in hospitals and care homes were working, the researchers said.
Mr Hancock said: ‘This research highlights how, thanks to everyone’s efforts and sacrifice, alongside targeted measures to counter the spread of this virus in health and care settings, we were able to keep rates of infection low as some restrictions were lifted.
‘However, we must not be complacent. I urge everyone to get a test if you have symptoms, self-isolate and provide your contacts to NHS Test and Trace so we can continue to keep the virus at bay and get back to normal.’
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial College London, said: ‘Through our community testing programme, we’re beginning to build a more informed picture of COVID-19 across England.
‘This surveillance programme is showing us the prevalence of infection between different demographics, age groups and ethnicities as well as giving us insight into how easing lockdown restrictions are affecting the infection rate.’
Reacting to the findings, Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia, said: ‘The primary conclusion from this study was that there was a decline in prevalence between the first round (in May) and the second round and within both rounds one and two.
‘This finding is not surprising as it fits exactly with the reports of pillar 2 testing positive results that are reported each day.
‘There is general agreement that the relaxations in lockdown restrictions in early June were not sufficient to push the R value above 1.
‘The REACT-1 study has shown that the rate of decline had slowed between round 1 and 2 suggesting that the relaxations in early June did allow the R value to drift up.
‘The study does not enable any conclusions to be drawn about what impact any of the further relaxation from late June onwards may have had.
‘Indeed, it is likely that the impact of any relaxation will not be seen in swab data for at least a week or two after implementation.
‘The fact that pillar 2 reports are increasing does raise concerns that the R value has increased above 1 at least in some parts of the country.
‘The big uncertainty at present is how much of the increase in pillar 2 positive reports is due to a real increase in infections and how much to increased testing. We will need to await the results of REACT-1 round 3 to be able to answer this.’
The figures add to mounting fears of a second wave in Britain, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson understood to be ‘extremely concerned’ about cases bubbling up in the UK and in other European nations that have relaxed tough lockdown measures.
France has warned it could lose control of Covid-19 ‘at any moment’.
But the number of patients being admitted to hospital has yet to spike, bolstering claims from top scientists that the outbreak is not getting worse and cases are only rising because more patients are being tested.
Just 109 coronavirus patients were admitted for NHS care across the UK on August 2 — a figure which has barely changed throughout July.
During the darkest days of Britain’s crisis in April, around 3,500 patients were needing hospital treatment every day.
It comes as Aberdeen became the latest city to be put back into lockdown as pubs, cafes and restaurants were shut on Tuesday.
Officials last week imposed tough new restrictions on 4.5million people living in Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire to curb spiralling coronavirus rates.
Meanwhile, Leicester has been in its local lockdown for more than a month after becoming the first region to be hit with the regional restrictions.
Source: Daily Mail