Calls to lift lockdown faster as Covid fades to lowest level since July as cases more than HALVED in week


BORIS Johnson is facing calls to lift lockdown faster as Covid infections fade to the lowest levels since July – with cases more than halving in a week.

Experts say there are now less than 2,000 new symptomatic infections of the virus on a daily basis.

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A graph shows how infection rates have fallen in the UK since the peak in January

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A graph shows how infection rates have fallen in the UK since the peak in JanuaryCredit: ZOE

Data from the ZOE Symptom Tracker app shows that in the last week 1,924 new cases of the virus were recorded a day, a huge drop down from 4,152 daily cases a week ago.

Covid Recovery Group Deputy Chair Steve Baker MP said: “The good news of today’s data that deaths are down 92 per cent in England and Wales from January is not merely a relief, we should be pleased that so many fewer people are suffering the consequences of coronavirus.

“Unfortunately, enormous numbers of people continue to suffer the harm caused by lockdowns and restrictions. 

“That’s why so many are now furious with bewilderment that the Government is insisting that they will stick to the dates in their plan as if defending against demands to go slower. 

“Who on earth is pressing Boris that way and why don’t they look at the data? People need now to look forward with hope to life after lockdown.”

Professor Tim Spector, lead author, said the UK is now in a similar position to last summer when the country had opened back up again – with the country seeing the lowest cases in Europe.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith told MailOnline the UK’s release from lockdown “should be quicker” now, to reflect the positive new data instead of the PM’s current “deeply pessimistic” roadmap.

He said: “I think we should be opening up hospitality inside not just outside next week, or certainly very close thereafter and then other stuff cascading directly as a result of that.

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“Instead of which I think we are sort of in a peculiar place where we are so cautious now that the idea we were following the data is not correct.”

And this week Sage expert Dr Mike Tildesley, said there was an argument for lifting Covid restrictions sooner with the fall in cases.

He told LBC: “I think if these numbers keep going down over the next few weeks there certainly is an argument to say ‘well actually we’re doing really well with the road map, it could be sped up’.”

“I will say that if things keep going down at the rate that they are then there certainly is an argument for speeding up the process.”

Prof Spector added: “According to the latest data, daily new cases of Covid have more than halved over a seven day period, with cases now below 2,000.

“These figures are among the lowest in Europe. Admissions and deaths are also continuing to decline, putting the UK in a similar place to July last year.

“It’s unlikely that cases will continue to fall at this pace, but with the vaccinations programme and the weather improving, it’s likely they will remain low.”

The map above shows how prevalent Covid infections are in the UK. The areas shaded in dark pink are where higher infection rates are being seen

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The map above shows how prevalent Covid infections are in the UK. The areas shaded in dark pink are where higher infection rates are being seenCredit: zoe

 

During the summer months last year restrictions had been relaxed and people were allowed to mix indoors with different households.

While large scale events were still unable to go ahead, people were able to go to the gym, out for dinner with friends and even go on holiday.

But Brits are still banned from going abroad or mingling indoors together even as a small group, with social distancing restrictions in place until June.

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Despite the progress made thanks to the vaccine rollout Health Secretary Matt Hancock today vowed the roll back of restrictions won’t be sped up.

He dismissed modelling that shows the proportion of the population with protection against the virus is set to hit almost three quarters on Monday.

And he said other scientists have previously told him herd immunity might not be reached until after June.

Academics at UCL predicted the number of people with protection from the virus via either a vaccine or previous infection will hit 73.4% next week.

But asked about the reports Mr Hancock said: “What I prefer to do is watch the data. We’ve set out the roadmap, the roadmap is really clear.

“It is our route back to normal. We’re on track to meet the roadmap and that is our goal.

“I think we have taken the right course in plotting our way to freedom and doing it carefully, because we want it to be irreversible.”

I think if these numbers keep going down over the next few weeks there certainly is an argument to say ‘well actually we’re doing really well with the road map, it could be sped up’.

Dr Mike Tildesley

The experts say that on average 1 in 1,394 people in the UK currently have symptomatic Covid.

The data from the app also estimates that the R rate in the UK is currently at 0.7.

This is different from estimates from Sage which are released every Friday afternoon.

In the latest release from the government’s advisory board, experts estimated that the R rate in England was stable between 0.8 and 1.

Government officials failed to agree on the figure for across the UK because case numbers are so low.

Data from the ZOE app states that regional values put England at 0.8, Wales at 0.5 and Scotland at 0.8.

The experts said that the R value reflects the significant drop in cases in the last week.

 

Mr Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown is going ahead, with more restrictions to be lifted on April 12.

Gyms, hair salons and non-essential shops will all be able to reopen and hospitality venues will be able to serve customers outside.

One way Mr Johnson said normal life will be able to resume is through rapid testing.

The government this week announced plans that all adults in England would have access to two rapid lateral flow tests a week.

The hope is that more cases will be caught – meaning community transmission rates will not be as high.

The chart above shows that infection rates are falling in all regions of the country

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The chart above shows that infection rates are falling in all regions of the countryCredit: ZOE

But experts have warned Brits that the tests aren’t always accurate.

Prof Spector said: “According to our own data 5 in 1000 of these tests give a false positive result, so we are encouraging people to take a lateral flow test at least twice if positive and confirm it with a full NHS PCR test.

“However, people also need to know all the 20 symptoms, including sore throat, headache and fatigue, not just the classic three. So if you feel unwell with any of the symptoms of Covid, stay at home and get a test.”

The NHS states that the three most common symptoms of Covid-19 are a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell.

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