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Covid cases fell in FOUR-FIFTHS of areas in England towards the end of August, official data shows

Covid cases fell in four-fifths of areas in England towards the end of August, official data revealed today.

Public Health England’s weekly report said 117 out of 149 councils saw their cases drop in the week to August 29 compared to the previous seven-day spell.

The agency said cases had dropped among children, teenagers and young adults who have the highest infection rates in the country — but had risen slightly among the over-40s.

This matched official figures from the Covid dashboard which showed England’s cases fell five per cent in the last week of August. Department of Health figures also indicated the country’s daily infection figures are still falling, with yesterday’s tally of 24,723 nearly a 10 per cent drop on the week before.

But despite the promising reports, a symptom-tracking app today claimed infections in the country were rising.

King’s College London scientists estimated 46,000-odd people were catching the virus every day across the country last week, up 20 per cent on a fortnight ago. The team also suggested there were 57,000-odd Covid infections a day across the UK as a whole.

The scientists rely on more than a million people reporting their symptoms to a mobile app and whether they have tested positive to estimate Covid cases. But some experts have warned the study — which is also run by health company ZOE — is no longer reliable because it now struggles to distinguish Covid from other common viruses. 

Fears are growing that England will face an explosion in Covid cases over the coming week as millions of children return to classrooms following the summer holidays. Scotland has seen daily infections hit a record-high since its schools reopened in mid-August.

‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson today warned there would be a ‘significant surge’ in cases and ‘to some extent’ in hospitalisations because of schoolchildren going back.

But he insisted it was not clear whether this would force No10 into rolling back restrictions. The SAGE adviser said it ‘depends on the level of healthcare demand’, warning there would be ‘significant pressures’ if daily cases breach 100,000. 

PHE’s weekly report showed Covid cases fell among under-40s at the end of August, in the latest week data is available. But they rose in older age groups

Covid cases in England were also recorded as falling across England's nine regions. The South West had the highest infection rate, although this fell sharply compared to the previous seven-day spell.

Covid cases in England were also recorded as falling across England’s nine regions. The South West had the highest infection rate, although this fell sharply compared to the previous seven-day spell.

Covid cases fell in FOUR-FIFTHS of areas in England towards the end of August, official data shows

This graph shows estimates for the number of daily cases across the UK according to a symptom-tracking app. In its latest report it said almost 60,000 people were being infected with the virus every day at the end of August

This graph shows estimates for the number of daily cases across the UK according to a symptom-tracking app. In its latest report it said almost 60,000 people were being infected with the virus every day at the end of August

Covid cases fell in FOUR-FIFTHS of areas in England towards the end of August, official data shows

ENGLAND: The above graph shows the daily number of infections in England by date reported (blue bars) and the average (blue line). The figures show cases in England dropped five per cent in two weeks

SCOTLAND: The above graph shows the daily number of infections in Scotland by date reported (blue bar) and the average (blue line). It shows cases are rising in the country

SCOTLAND: The above graph shows the daily number of infections in Scotland by date reported (blue bar) and the average (blue line). It shows cases are rising in the country

WALES: The above graph shows the daily number of infections reported in Wales (blue bar) and the average number of infections per day (blue line)

WALES: The above graph shows the daily number of infections reported in Wales (blue bar) and the average number of infections per day (blue line)

NORTHERN IRELAND: The above graph shows the daily number of Covid infections reported in Northern Ireland (blue bar) and the average number of infections (blue line)

NORTHERN IRELAND: The above graph shows the daily number of Covid infections reported in Northern Ireland (blue bar) and the average number of infections (blue line)

Covid cases will surge but it’s too early to say whether restrictions will be needed again, Professor Lockdown says

A ‘significant surge’ in cases is expected in the UK but it is too early to say whether that might mean the relaxation of restrictions needs to be rolled back, a leading expert has said.

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling was instrumental to the UK going into lockdown in March 2020, said if daily cases start going above 100,000 to 150,000 there will be ‘significant demands on the health system’.

The scientist, from Imperial College London, and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said it will be for the Government to decide on potential measures and would not be drawn on what form they might take.

Speaking to reporters during a webinar on Thursday, he said there are concerns about the effect schools reopening could have on virus spread, especially with the more transmissible and now-dominant Delta variant.

He said: ‘We expect to see quite a significant surge in cases, to some extent in hospitalisations, but whether that’s going to require any rolling back of the relaxation of restrictions is too early to say. It really depends on the level of healthcare demand.’

He said if an unvaccinated population of 5 or 10% all got Covid in a short period of time it would result in a ‘large healthcare burden, and a large number of deaths’ and that it could also ‘have a risk of significantly overwhelming health systems even in high income countries such as the UK’.

He said it is hard to predict how long any rise in case numbers, as seen in Scotland after schools went back, would go on for.

He said: ‘Obviously the relationship between case numbers and hospitalisations has changed now, fundamentally because of vaccination. So we can cope with much higher numbers of cases per day and still maintain hospitalisations at, well, the Government would say acceptable levels, and deaths would be even lower, but that only holds for so long.

‘So if we do get above 100,000/150,000 cases a day, then we start seeing very significant demands on the health system, and it will be up to the Government to decide at that point, or at some maybe earlier point, what the implications are for policy.

‘I’m not going to get drawn on what that might be.’

Scientists have warned the symptom-tracking study — which is also run by health data science company ZOE — is no longer reliable because it struggles to distinguish the virus from other common viruses.

They said vaccines have ‘changed the game’ because they have made Covid more like a ‘bad cold’, and left people infected less likely to suffer the three tell-tale symptoms — temperature, cough and loss of taste and smell.

The study, run alongside the healthtech firm ZOE, also suggested Covid cases had risen in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over the previous two weeks.

This matched official data for Scotland and Wales.

But for Northern Ireland data from the Government’s dashboard said cases had remained stable in the two-week period with almost 1,500 recorded each day. 

Scotland is being savaged by spiralling infections, which were triggered after children returned to the classroom in mid-August.   

Professor Tim Spector, who leads the Symptom Study, said: ‘The UK has enjoyed a restriction-free summer unlike most of Europe and even though a large majority of UK adults are now vaccinated, the rise in cases, as well as hospitalisations and deaths is one of the highest in Europe. 

‘This is evidence that without at least some restrictions Covid will continue to spread. 

‘Fully vaccinated people are getting Covid, but not only are they often unable to spot the signs of infection due to the Government’s outdated list of symptoms, we’ve seen evidence that the protection provided by vaccines is wearing off. 

JCVI expert says it is ‘highly likely’ the UK will have dish out boosters 

Britain is ‘highly likely’ to go ahead with a Covid booster programme, one of No10’s top vaccine advisers insisted today amid mounting pressure on the Government’s expert panel to hurry up and sign off on a top-up drive. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which guides ministers on the roll-out, is still yet to give the green light to plans to re-vaccinate 32million over-50s. 

Yesterday, the panel announced around half a million immunocompromised people be given a third dose to ‘top up’ their immunity — but stressed this was not the start of any booster programme. 

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called on the UK to ‘stop hanging around’ and follow in the footsteps of Israel, which has already recommended all over-12s get a booster jab. Its top-up drive has already helped blunt rising hospitalisations, data suggests. 

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the JCVI, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think it is still highly likely that there will be a booster programme.’ But he added: ‘I can’t definitively say that there will be because we have not made that decision yet.’

And he warned any scheme was unlikely to start for weeks because the expert committee — made up of 16 of the country’s top scientists — was still ironing out who would be eligible.   

Patience with the scientific committee is wearing thin in No10, which had hoped to start rolling out extra jabs by Monday. Studies have shown vaccine-triggered immunity can wane over time — especially among the elderly, who are the most vulnerable to the virus. 

Fellow Government advisers warned today that time was slipping away and if a judgement is not made soon, the UK could be ‘past the time when we should have been making a decision’.   

MailOnline understands the JCVI is waiting on more trial data from UK studies — including ones on ‘mix and match’ jabs — before signing off on a mass booster programme. 

‘To help stop the spread, it’s still important for more of us to act responsibly by wearing masks in public, particularly in crowded places, washing our hands regularly, and trying to distance ourselves from others where possible.’

He added: ‘The sharp increase in cases in Scotland following their return to school in August is a real concern, especially as children in England and Wales are now heading back. 

‘It’s likely that England and Wales will follow suit, helped by super-spreader festival events, making it ever more likely that the summer wave will continue into the autumn. 

‘The question is — how high do numbers of cases and hospitalisations have to get before we recognise that Covid remains a real threat?’

The ZOE Covid Symptom Study has been monitoring the virus since the start of the pandemic by asking contributors to report whether they are feeling unwell and what symptoms they are suffering.

But in recent weeks scientists have cautioned it may be less reliable because infections among vaccinated Britons are more likely to be like a ‘bad cold’ and difficult to distinguish from other viruses.

Official data suggests almost nine in ten over-16s have already been vaccinated against Covid. 

There are also suggestions booster doses could be rolled out this winter alongside jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds. 

The study is also unable to spot asymptomatic infections that trigger no symptoms, which official estimates suggest make up about a third of cases. 

Professor Ferguson — whose modelling spooked ministers into the first lockdown — said the country was set to record a significant surge in cases this winter.

He said: ‘We expect to see quite a significant surge in cases, to some extent in hospitalisations, but whether that’s going to require any rolling back of the relaxation of restrictions is too early to say. 

‘It really depends on the level of healthcare demand.’

He added if an unvaccinated population of 5 or 10 per cent all got Covid in a short period of time it would result in a ‘large healthcare burden, and a large number of deaths’.

And Professor Ferguson, from Imperial College London, added that it could also ‘have a risk of significantly overwhelming health systems even in high income countries such as the UK’.

‘Obviously the relationship between case numbers and hospitalisations has changed now, fundamentally because of vaccination,’ he told a briefing for health and science journalists. 

‘So we can cope with much higher numbers of cases per day and still maintain hospitalisations at, well, the Government would say acceptable levels, and deaths would be even lower, but that only holds for so long.

‘So if we do get above 100,000 or 150,000 cases a day, then we start seeing very significant demands on the health system, and it will be up to the Government to decide at that point, or at some maybe earlier point, what the implications are for policy.’ 

Yesterday’s Covid figures showed cases had flattened off ahead of the return of millions of schoolchildren in England that it is feared will spark another uptick in cases. 

Health chiefs posted another 35,693 infections across the UK as a whole, barely a change on the 35,847 recorded the previous week.

But England’s infections fell again with Government data showing they were down by a tenth on last Wednesday. Yet in Scotland — which saw positive tests spiral to a record high after children returned to schools in mid-August — cases continued to rise. 

Covid hospitalisations also appear to have plateaued, with the latest data showing 842 people were admitted to wards across Britain on August 28, the most recent day figures are available for. In the previous week 859 people were hospitalised.

Another 207 deaths were recorded today in the highest daily toll since March when the second wave was running out of steam. The high numbers are mainly due to the bank holiday and its recording lag.

Separate figures from Public Health England suggested today that almost four-fifths of English council areas saw their Covid cases fall at the end of August.

Some 117 out of 149 local authorities registered fewer Covid infections than at the same time last week.

Separate figures from Test and Trace revealed 198,626 people tested positive for Covid in England in the week to August 25, down 1 per cent on the previous week.

The number of people testing positive has been around 200,000 since the end of July.

Some 13 per cent of people – around one in eight – who were transferred to Test and Trace in England in the week to August 25 were not reached, meaning they were not able to provide details of recent close contacts.

This is up slightly from 12.3 per cent in the previous week.

Anybody in England who tests positive for Covid, either through a rapid (LFD) test or a PCR test processed in a laboratory, is transferred to Test and Trace so their contacts can be identified and alerted.

The Covid Symptom Study suggested cases in the UK are increasing fastest among under-18s as children return to school. They said these would likely overtake 18 to 35-year-olds in the near future

The Covid Symptom Study suggested cases in the UK are increasing fastest among under-18s as children return to school. They said these would likely overtake 18 to 35-year-olds in the near future

King's College London scientists estimated cases had spiralled fastest in Scotland, where schools went back in mid-August

King’s College London scientists estimated cases had spiralled fastest in Scotland, where schools went back in mid-August

They also found people who had not been vaccinated or had only received one dose were more likely to be infected with the virus than those who had got both doses.

They also found people who had not been vaccinated or had only received one dose were more likely to be infected with the virus than those who had got both doses.

Covid cases fell in FOUR-FIFTHS of areas in England towards the end of August, official data shows

Covid cases fell in FOUR-FIFTHS of areas in England towards the end of August, official data shows

Covid cases fell in FOUR-FIFTHS of areas in England towards the end of August, official data shows

Covid cases fell in FOUR-FIFTHS of areas in England towards the end of August, official data shows

It came as a JCVI expert said Britain is ‘highly likely’ to go ahead with a Covid booster programme, amid mounting pressure for the Government’s panel to hurry up and sign off on a top-up drive. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which guides ministers on the roll-out, is still yet to give the green light to plans to re-vaccinate 32million over-50s. 

Yesterday, the panel announced around half a million immunocompromised people be given a third dose to ‘top up’ their immunity — but stressed this was not the start of any booster programme. 

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called on the UK to ‘stop hanging around’ and follow in the footsteps of Israel, which has already recommended all over-12s get a booster jab. Its top-up drive has already helped blunt rising hospitalisations, data suggests. 

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the JCVI, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think it is still highly likely that there will be a booster programme.’ But he added: ‘I can’t definitively say that there will be because we have not made that decision yet.’

And he warned any scheme was unlikely to start for weeks because the expert committee — made up of 16 of the country’s top scientists — was still ironing out who would be eligible.   

Patience with the scientific committee is wearing thin in No10, which had hoped to start rolling out extra jabs by Monday. Studies have shown vaccine-triggered immunity can wane over time — especially among the elderly, who are the most vulnerable to the virus. 

Fellow Government advisers warned today that time was slipping away and if a judgement is not made soon, the UK could be ‘past the time when we should have been making a decision’.   

MailOnline understands the JCVI is waiting on more trial data from UK studies — including ones on ‘mix and match’ jabs — before signing off on a mass booster programme. 

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