Is Britain's coronavirus outbreak taking off again? Infections are up 48% in a week


Covid-19 infections clearly started to rise after ‘Super Saturday’, according to an analysis of official data that has revealed the number of Britons being diagnosed each day is now 54 per cent higher than it was a week ago as the outbreak continues to grow.

Hundreds of thousands flocked to pubs, restaurants and hairdressers after they were finally allowed to re-open on July 4, after months of being closed to help contain the UK’s coronavirus crisis. Leading scientists warned it would cause a spike in infections – while others insisted it was time the nation ‘learns to live with the virus’. 

MailOnline’s crunching of government statistics shows Covid-19 infections started to rise within days of Brits being given freedom to enjoy the summer without being cooped up at home. Doctors say it can take patients up to two weeks to develop a cough or other tell-tale symptoms of the disease.

Department of Health figures reveal the rolling seven-day average of daily cases on July 9 was 556, down 32 per cent on the week before. But the growth rate had dropped from the -39 per cent the previous day, showing that the outbreak wasn’t shrinking as quickly. 

But it was not just a one-off. Statistics show the rate quickly started to spiral upwards, with July 13 (624) being a 6 per cent jump on the previous week (590). This was the first time the rate was positive – showing the outbreak had grown – since the start of May, when testing was massively ramped up to help officials get on top of the pandemic.

Infections began to dip off in the middle of August but it is not clear why. They soon started to pick up towards the end of the month, and spiralled after the Bank Holiday and over the start of September, when millions of children went back to school and workers dashed back to the offices. 

Growth rates plunged around mid-September, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced the ‘Rule of Six’ in a desperate attempt to curb spiralling rates of coronavirus. The average number of daily infections compared to the week hit a high of 84 per cent on September 12 but fell every day until September 19, government statistics show.

They have risen for six consecutive days since then, MailOnline can reveal. Health chiefs announced another 6,874 cases today, meaning the seven-day rolling average (5,329) is 54 per cent higher than it was a week ago (3,466). By contrast, the rate yesterday was 48 per cent higher than it was last Thursday.

Some top scientists had insisted there was not a true rise in cases because the test positivity rate – how many cases are found for every swab completed – had not changed wildly, suggesting any spike is down to swabbing capacity being ramped up. However, this appears to no longer be the case, with Government data showing around 20 out of every 1,000 people are testing positive now, up from the 15 on September 12.

Today saw another 6,874 Covid-19 cases recorded, meaning the seven-day rolling average is 54 per cent higher than it was a week ago. MailOnline analysis shows this is the sixth consecutive day the average compared to the week before has risen

Some top scientists had insisted there was not a true rise in cases because the test positivity rate – how many cases are found for every swab completed – had not changed wildly. However, this appears to no longer be the case. NHS Test and Trace data shows almost 3.3 per cent of people tested get a positive result compared to lows of 1.1 in July

Yesterday saw another 6,634 Covid-19 cases recorded, meaning the average number of daily infections is 48 per cent higher than it was a week ago

Yesterday saw another 6,634 Covid-19 cases recorded, meaning the average number of daily infections is 48 per cent higher than it was a week ago

The chief scientific advisors to the Government, Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, gave a stark warning this week of coronavirus cases 'doubling every week', with fears cases could reach 50,000 per day by mid-October if nothing is done

The chief scientific advisors to the Government, Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, gave a stark warning this week of coronavirus cases ‘doubling every week’, with fears cases could reach 50,000 per day by mid-October if nothing is done

Timeline of lockdown easing

April 23: One full month of lockdown

Around this time ministers were torn over whether to lift the lockdown at the start of May or wait until the summer.

Frustration was growing in the Cabinet over a lack of debate on the issue as the damage to the economy mounted.

Ministers were considering two possible strategies. The first involved extending the full lockdown well into early summer to ‘push the numbers right down’ – although this was expected to risk further damaging the economy.

The second would see restrictions lifted earlier, potentially after the three-week extension expired on May 8 – even though it was expected to risk a second virus ‘peak’.

May 10: Government unveils ‘stay alert’ message

The Prime Minister unveiled the new ‘stay alert’ message, which replaced the ‘stay home’ one.

But the devolved powers decided to stick with the old one over fears ‘stay alert’ was ambiguous.

May 13: People are allowed out for unlimited exercise and to meet one other person outdoors

Boris Johnson called for people who could not work from home to return to their jobs.

But he called for social distancing to remain in workplaces such as building sites.

Britons were allowed out of their houses for exercise without limits.

They were also allowed to meet up with another person outdoors but had to stay 2m away.

June 1: Groups of six people can meet

Six people were allowed to meet in parks and other’s gardens for the first time since lockdown.

The government also reopened schools for reception, year one and year six students despite protest from teaching unions. 

June 15: Non-essential shops re-open

Non-essential shops re-opened as well as zoos, safari parks and religious centres. But people were ordered to have to wear face coverings on public transport in England.

July 4: Pubs, bars and restaurants allowed to reopen

Pubs, bars and restaurants reopened in England, with millions of people descending on their locals for a fresh pint.

July 25: Gyms, pools and sports centres allowed to reopen

Gyms, pools and sports centres were allowed to reopen for the first time since the lockdown amid social distancing rules.

Also, Mr Johnson announced that holidaymakers on their way to England from Spain would have to quarantine for two weeks due to a spike in cases in the Meditterranean country.

August 3: ‘Eat Out To Help Out scheme is launched

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s scheme saw millions return to restaurants as they helped bolster the stricken hospitality industry.

August 15: Wedding receptions allowed

In a boost for younger couples, wedding receptions were allowed again, but with limited capacity and maintaining social distancing rules. 

August 31: August Bank Holiday

Crowds headed out into the hot sun and many defied government rules and threw parties over the weekend.

September 1: Schools re-open

Students in Northern Ireland returned to the classroom for the first time since lockdown was brought in. England and Wales headed back during the week.

Oxford University started human trials for their coronavirus vaccine in the US.

September 14: Rule of six is introduced   

It comes as chief scientific advisors to the Government, Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, terrified the nation by their gloomy prediction that cases may reach 50,000 per day by mid-October, if nothing is done. They claimed infections were doubling every week, in line with growing outbreaks in Spain and France

But scientists shot down the claims, warning it was based on old data that relied on just a few hundred positive cases. Even Boris Johnson distanced himself from the claims, saying the outbreak could be doubling up to every 20 days. 

Other figures from NHS Test and Trace also suggest cases had dwindled last week. But the newest statistics – released yesterday – only go up until September 16, meaning any spike in the past week has yet to be confirmed in another government dataset. 

Department of Health figures show the doubling rate of cases is around two weeks. Almost 5,000 people are being diagnosed with Covid-19 every day at the moment, up from 2,500 on September 10. But this is based on lab-confirmed infections, and thousands of patients won’t ever develop any symptoms.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which tracks the size of the outbreak by carrying out thousands of random swab tests, estimates cases have risen 60 per cent in a week to 9,600 a day. While King’s College London researchers, who are behind a symptom-tracking app, say it has doubled over the same time-frame to around 16,000. 

Matt Hancock yesterday suggested the true number of cases occurring each day was in the region of 10,000. And the Health Secretary pointed out that the spike now is nowhere near levels seen during the darkest days of the crisis in March and April, when 100,000 people were getting infected every 24 hours.

Today a record-high daily cases of 6,874 cases were diagnosed, a huge rise compared to last Friday, when 4,322 people were diagnosed with the disease. 

But millions of Brits went undiagnosed during the first wave of the pandemic due the government’s lacklustre testing regime, so it is impossible to accurately compare numbers now to those in March and April. Top experts say more than 100,000 people were actually catching the virus every day during the darkest days of the first wave. Now, estimates range between 9,600 (ONS) and even 18,000. 

The latter estimate was suggested by Dr Julian Tang, a respiratory disease expert at the University of Leicester, who claimed the actual number of cases occurring each day in England now may be three times greater than what official figures show because of how common asymptomatic patients are.

Since reporting of cases varies greatly from the start of the pandemic, and even now, day to day, it is helpful to look at a wider time span for signs of change in the outbreak. 

This provides a clearer picture of where the pandemic is accelerating, staying the same, or reducing because it less affected by daily variations in reporting.

Data shows the rolling seven-day average currently stands at 5,329. That means, over the past seven days, that many people have been diagnosed in the UK every 24 hours, on average.

The figure is 54 per cent higher than that recorded last Friday (3,466). And it has been increasing every day for the past six days.

Cases have not been shrinking since the end of August, when the seven-day average was in minus figures for four days running. And from around April 17 to July 12, the average consistently fell because of lockdown.

BETWEEN 9,000 AND 16,000 BRITONS ARE CATCHING COVID-19 EVERY DAY, DATA SHOWS

Between 9,000 and 16,000 Britons are getting infected with coronavirus every day, according to researchers monitoring the UK’s outbreak.

King’s College London (KCL) scientists behind the COVID Symptom Tracker mobile app estimate that there were at least 16,310 daily cases of the disease in the last week, more than double the 7,536 estimated last week.

The Office for National Statistics, a Government-run agency, has made a more modest estimate today, saying it thinks around 9,600 people are contracting the virus every day, a 60 per cent rise from the 6,000 a week prior.

Both surveillance projects are picking up far more than the Government’s official testing programme, which recorded 6,000-plus cases on Thursday and Wednesday.

KCL collects its data by sending tests to people who report tell-tale symptoms of Covid-19 into the mobile app, while the ONS study sends tests to random households regardless of their health status.

Data from the symptom-tracking app, which has seen millions of Brits sign up and report their symptoms, suggests there are nearly 150,000 people currently suffering symptomatic Covid-19, although many more will have no symptoms.

This figure has more than doubled since last week, when there were about 70,000 symptomatic patients. The chief scientist behind the app said it was fresh evidence the crisis was ‘rising at an alarming rate’.

The ONS, on the other hand, estimates that about 113,000 people are currently carrying the virus, although the number-crunching body only looks at England and Wales.

The ONS, on the other hand, estimates that about 113,000 people are currently carrying the virus, although the number-crunching body only looks at England and Wales

The ONS, on the other hand, estimates that about 113,000 people are currently carrying the virus, although the number-crunching body only looks at England and Wales

On Monday, Sir Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty made a stark forecast of 50,000 coronavirus infections per day by mid-October, which could lead to some 200 deaths a day by November.

But it has since been revealed this scenario – claimed not to be a ‘prediction’ – was based on studies involving just hundreds of positive cases. 

A spokesman for Sir Vallance confirmed on Tuesday that the seven-day estimate was ‘heavily’ based on findings of the weekly survey of the Office for National Statistics, and the React-1 survey by Imperial College London.

The studies test a random sample of 100,000 people but, as the virus is circulating at low levels, they have to base their predictions off only a few hundred positive cases.

In the last React-1 study on September 7, they spotted 136 coronavirus cases out of 153,000 people sampled. The low number led them to predict that infections could double every seven days.

This ‘doubling every seven days’ was used by the Government’s top scientists to reach a scenario in which 50,000 cases a day were being diagnosed in October. 

The Government admitted it used these surveys as opposed to actual testing data because it was worried that the figures lagged behind the spread of the disease. 

Even the Prime Minister appeared to undermine the pair on Tuesday, when he admitted cases in the UK could be taking as long as 20 days to double in number. 

The same day the terrifying predictions were lambasted as ‘implausible’ by scientists, Mr Johnson stood in front of the House of Commons to unveil a wave of new measures designed to stop the spread of the disease, including making the Army available to help police enforce stringent new coronavirus rules such as a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants.

Figures based on diagnosed cases alone suggest the outbreak is doubling every 14 days, rising from an average of 2,527 infections a day on September 10 to 4,964 yesterday.

Meanwhile, the growth rate suggests cases are doubling ‘between every 10 to 20 days’. The size of the growth rate indicates the speed of change.

Today the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) reported the growth rate was growing by between four and eight per cent each day, up from the two to seven per cent they reported last week.

The range they gave on September 11, two weeks ago, was from -1 to 3 per cent, meaning there was some possibility that the number of new cases might still be falling slowly. 

Professor Kevin McConway, a statistician at The Open University, said: ‘A four per cent daily growth rate corresponds to a 32 per cent weekly growth rate. And it corresponds to a time of about 18 days for the number of infections to double. 

‘An eight per cent daily growth rate corresponds to a weekly growth rate of about 71 per cent, and a doubling time of about 9 days, just a bit over a week. 

‘So, in very broad terms, these growth rates do match the conclusions on the growth of new cases in today’s update on the ONS infection survey. And they are certainly big enough to be worrying.’

Scientists say the more testing, the more cases are found in the community and reported by the Government. This can give the impression there are more infections in the population when there are not.

Testing has been ramped up over the summer, doubling from a daily average of 112,000 on July 16 to 227,000 a day now. During this period, Government-reported cases have increased eight-fold.

A useful measurement of whether cases are on the up due to testing or a genuine increase in spread is the ‘test positivity rate’ – the number of people who test positive out of the total number swabbed.

Department of Health data shows 19.83 of every 1,000 people are testing positive for the virus under the current testing scheme, up from five in July and 13 two weeks ago.

It’s been rising steadily over July, August and September as a number of coronavirus restrictions were eased and people were encouraged to go back to work, Eat Out to Help Out, and children went back to school.

The Office for National Statistics, a Government-run agency, has made a more modest estimate today, saying it thinks around 9,600 people are contracting the virus every day, a 60 per cent rise from the 6,000 a week prior

The Office for National Statistics, a Government-run agency, has made a more modest estimate today, saying it thinks around 9,600 people are contracting the virus every day, a 60 per cent rise from the 6,000 a week prior

The ONS has spotted a rise in infections among all age groups in England - although the steepest increase was observed in 17 to 24-year-olds

The ONS has spotted a rise in infections among all age groups in England – although the steepest increase was observed in 17 to 24-year-olds

The North West is still bearing most of the brunt of the second wave, but Yorkshire, London and the North East are seeing significant outbreaks

The North West is still bearing most of the brunt of the second wave, but Yorkshire, London and the North East are seeing significant outbreaks

Data from the King College London's app, which has seen millions of Brits sign up and report their symptoms, suggests there are nearly 150,000 people currently suffering symptomatic Covid-19, although many more will have no symptoms

Data from the King College London’s app, which has seen millions of Brits sign up and report their symptoms, suggests there are nearly 150,000 people currently suffering symptomatic Covid-19, although many more will have no symptoms

Figures from NHS Test and Trace, which was launched in May, show the same pattern; test positivity rate lulled in July before picking back up again, but very slowly.

In the week ending July 17, around 1.12 per cent of tests came back as positive (4,041 of 359,406). It is now at 3.28 per cent (19,278 of 587,173), according to data published yesterday. 

Calculations show ‘positive tests’ have increased by 377 per cent, or almost five-fold, in that time period, which would naturally cause alarm.

But the ‘test positivity’ rate has increased by 187 per cent, or almost three-fold. This suggests at least some of the increase in cases is due to testing, while there is a genuine increase in how much coronavirus is spreading. 

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Professor Anthony Brookes, an expert in genomics at the University of Leicester, said ‘no one is questioning whether the positivity rate is increasing’, but he says it is not clear if it is something to worry about and therefore worthy of a potentially damaging second lockdown.

It’s also unclear if it will level off or keep rising, as suggested by the Government’s chief advisors, and if it will translate to more deaths.

Professor Brookes told MailOnline: ‘No-one without a functioning crystal ball can answer those questions with certainty. My own best guess, informed by empirical data and comparisons to many other countries and time periods, is that this is not something to panic about.

‘The prevalence will probably rise to about five per cent, 10 per cent at the very most, before fading away, as it has done or is doing in many other EU countries. It will mainly be the young that are infected, with little to no health consequences. Consequently, there will be no dramatic stress on the NHS.

‘Critically though, people must be helped to understand that this recent increase is NOT happening everywhere. The government are not making this known. Places that had a large outbreak in the spring/summer are in general now undergoing only a small or even trivial secondary wave.’

The test positivity rate is increasing, according to Our World In Data. But it is no where near the rates seen in the peak of the pandemic. However, testing was focused on people who were seriously ill at that time, whereas now anyone with symptoms can apply for a test, so it is not comparable

The test positivity rate is increasing, according to Our World In Data. But it is no where near the rates seen in the peak of the pandemic. However, testing was focused on people who were seriously ill at that time, whereas now anyone with symptoms can apply for a test, so it is not comparable

HOW COULD TESTING AFFECT CASE NUMBERS?

If more people are being tested for Covid-19, this will show up in cases data, experts say. On the surface, it may look like a spike in infections. But it is more complicated than that, because it depends on who is being tested, and how many of those people are actually getting a positive rate back. 

Professor Kevin McConway, an emeritus professor of applied statistics, The Open University, said: ‘In the early stages of the pandemic, there was far less availability of testing in most countries than there now is. So one reason there are more cases is just that people have got better at looking for and finding them.’

And Dr Andrew Preston, a reader in microbial pathogenesis at University of Bath, said: ‘Test more people, you will find more positives.

‘Initially, testing was restricted to those reporting symptoms, but this has eased and it’s now possible for a wider range of people to request tests.’ 

Testing capacity has rapidly increased over the course of the pandemic in order to reach more people. A significantly higher number of people are being tested since July – when diagnosed cases were at their lowest, NHS Test and Trace data shows.

There has also been an increase in the number of people getting a positive result, suggesting that the virus is, indeed, circulating at higher levels than before. 

Department of Health data shows 19.83 of every 1,000 people are testing positive for the virus under the current testing scheme, up from five in July and 13 two weeks ago.

It’s been rising steadily over July, August and September as a number of coronavirus restrictions were eased and people were encouraged to go back to work, Eat Out to Help Out, and children went back to school. 

Figures from NHS Test and Trace, which was launched in May, show the same pattern; test positivity rate lulled in July before picking back up again, but very slowly.

In the week ending July 17, around 1.12 per cent of tests came back as positive (4,041 of 359,406). It is now at 3.28 per cent (19,278 of 587,173), according to data published yesterday. 

Calculations show ‘positive tests’ have increased by 377 per cent, or almost five-fold, in that time period, which would naturally cause alarm.

But the ‘test positivity’ rate has increased by 187 per cent, or almost three-fold. This suggests at least some of the increase in cases is due to testing, while there is a genuine increase in how much coronavirus is spreading. 

But the test positivity rate also depends on who is actually tested. The NHS Test and Trace data is based on people with symptoms or who believe they have Covid-19 coming forward for a test.

On the other hand, the Office for National Statistics data is based on random swabbing of thousands of households in England. It seeks out Covid-19 cases both symptomatic and asymptomatic.

This data, released today, suggests 0.19 per cent of the population in England, or around one in 500 people, currently have the coronavirus.

Professor McConway told MailOnline: ‘The estimated number of new infections per day is a bit under 10,000 – and 10,000 is a tiny proportion of the English population of over 56million. So you don’t get that many cases. 

‘Also remember than in the latest week’s Test and Trace data, only about three per cent of the people tested were positive – bigger than the ONS figure but that’s because people are tested in T&T only if they have symptoms or have some other reason that makes it relatively likely that they are infected.

‘The people tested are not representative of the whole population – they are tested because they have symptoms, or they are in a specific outbreak area, or they work in certain jobs, or something like that. 

‘I still prefer the ONS infection survey as a reliable data source on the number of infected people. There are caveats – it’s true that its estimates are based on rather small numbers of people being infected, but that’s because the percentage of people infected in the population, at any one time, is not large – and actually it never was very large even at the peak of the pandemic back in April.’

There are now a number of different data-sets which confirm the coronavirus outbreak is growing once more. But depending on the data analysed, it shows a different picture.

Some scientists argued that the ‘doubling every seven days’ theory spouted by Sir Patrick and Professor Whitty is unjustified – and should not have been used to ‘scare’ the public. 

Neither Spain nor France, whose outbreaks the UK is thought to be on a par with, have got anywhere near the dreaded 50,000 cases a day mark.  

Those nations have recorded a significant rise in daily infections in recent weeks, and hospitalisations and deaths have gone up alongside them. But cases are an average 11,100 per day in Spain and 10,100 in France.

If the UK were to follow the trends in these two countries, then cases would be at 10,000 a day by next month. But if cases were to jump to 50,000 a day by next month, as suggested, then they would be off the scale compared with France and Spain — six and three times higher, respectively. 

Only three countries in the world – India, the US and Brazil – have ever reported more than 50,000 new cases per day. 

One expert, Professor David Paton, said data had been presented unfairly to the public and demanded: ‘If they’ve got an explanation [for why the data was presented like that], then let’s hear it.’

The University of Buckingham’s Professor Karol Sikora, who has regularly been critical of the Government’s coronavirus response, said: ‘They’re so negative. The graph for the worst case scenario, for 50,000 cases a day by next month, it’s just scaring people.’ 

Sir Patrick Vallance yesterday said he believed the epidemic was doubling every seven days, which would lead to 200 deaths a day by mid-November. But figures throw into doubt some of his calculations

Sir Patrick Vallance yesterday said he believed the epidemic was doubling every seven days, which would lead to 200 deaths a day by mid-November. But figures throw into doubt some of his calculations

Some scientists argued that the 'doubling every seven days' theory spouted by Sir Patrick (left) and Professor Whitty (right) is unjustified - and should not have been used to 'scare' the public

Some scientists argued that the ‘doubling every seven days’ theory spouted by Sir Patrick (left) and Professor Whitty (right) is unjustified – and should not have been used to ‘scare’ the public

Hugh Pennington, an emeritus microbiologist at Aberdeen University said their prediction ‘wasn’t scientifically accurate’.

‘It was almost designed to scare us,’ he said. ‘It didn’t take into account we are doing a lot. I was annoyed because they were naughty doing that.’

Professor Paul Hunter, a medical expert at the University of East Anglia, said the figures they presented were ‘implausible’ for mid-October.

‘It’s important to bear in mind that they were not making a prediction, they were presenting an illustration of what would happen if cases continued to double, which they almost certainly will not,’ he said. 

Professor Brookes said they had presented a ‘distorted, unbalanced view of reality’, telling MailOnline this week: ‘Nothing they said was a lie. But they selectively presented things, and did not show the full picture.

‘They said it wasn’t a prediction. But look up a ‘prediction’ – if you say cases are ‘doubling, doubling, doubling, and this is what you get’ – it is a prediction.

‘I think it was and distorted unbalanced view of reality. I can’t say anything was technically wrong – cases have been increasing, and if you have doubling you will get those numbers. But it is selective view of things.’

‘Modelling is using guesstimates and trying to predict the future. They want to prepare for what is coming down the road. But models are not data. They should be a way to try and replicate what was happened in the past and try and go forward.

‘The alternative is to try and go away form models and use real life, empirical data patterns – the real, factual unquestionable data. What’s happened in the past six months in the UK? And what has happened in other countries? I can’t see any empirical data that suggests 50,000 cases by mid-October.’

Professor Brookes said using daily diagnosed case numbers, you can argue that cases have grown. But he believes the increase in the ‘positivity rate’ will not continue.

He said: ‘There was a couple weeks it shot up, and then it’s gone flat. They haven’t spoken about this in their data.’

‘There is an increase in percentage of [proportion of positive] tests. But it seems to have been a two-week event that has flattened now.

‘Twice over the summer we have seen exactly this. You ease up on lockdown. The rate goes up and then plateaus again. This is what it looks like to me. Given all of that – this recent concern about a second wave, it’s just unfounded.’

For example, Government data shows 14 of every 1,000 people were testing positive in mid-June. This went up to 15 per 1,000 for one week, before dipping back down and continuing to fall further.

The figure no-one wants to see increase is hospitalisations, because this gives a clear signal that more people are getting seriously sick with the disease and it is not just spreading in the younger, healthier and fitter groups.

The seven-day rolling average for new hospital admissions is at 224 – 46 per cent higher than a week ago.  Similarly the number of people in hospital (1,257) is 50 per cent higher than a week ago. 

MORE towns go into lockdown – so is London next? Capital is put on watch list as Wigan, Stockport, and Blackpool are banned from mixing from MIDNIGHT and experts warn UK’s Covid-19 R rate could now be as high as 1.5 with 6,874 new cases and 34 deaths

Britain's coronavirus R rate could now be as high as 1.5, government scientific advisers warned today after rises in all regions of the country

Britain’s coronavirus R rate could now be as high as 1.5, government scientific advisers warned today after rises in all regions of the country

Around 17million Britons are now living under tougher coronavirus restrictions than the rest of nation after health chiefs today confirmed extra measures were to be imposed on all residents living in Wigan, Stockport, Blackpool, Leeds and parts of Wales.

London was also placed on the national lockdown watchlist because of a spike in cases and hospital admissions as government advisors warned the capital’s R rate may now be as high as 1.5 – the same level seen in the North West, North East and the Midlands, which have all been stung by additional Covid-19 measures.

Number 10’s expert panel SAGE today also warned the reproductive rate of the virus may be as high as that for the UK overall. It’s the advisory body’s highest projection since it began tracking how quickly the disease was growing back in June and is slightly up on last week’s estimate of 1.1 – 1.4.   

If the R rate – the number of people each infected patient passes the disease on to – remains above one, then the outbreak will continue to grow and cases will keep surging, running the risk that local Covid-19 outbreaks spiral out of control into regional and even national problems. 

Health chiefs today announced 6,874 more Covid-19 infections and 34 more deaths. The daily case toll is a record-high and takes the total number of cases to 423,237, although millions of Brits went undiagnosed during the first wave of the pandemic due the government’s lacklustre testing regime.

Government figures show the number of victims succumbing to the life-threatening infection now stands at 29 – 73 per cent higher than the average of 17 last Friday. But they are still a far-cry from the 1,000 being recorded each day during the darkest weeks of the crisis in March and April. But SAGE warned that the low numbers of deaths do not reflect how quickly the outbreak is growing. 

Hospital admissions – another measure of how severe an outbreak is – have also risen again, with 314 newly-infected patients requiring NHS care in England on Wednesday – up from 183 the week before. 

Council bosses in London met today to confirm that the response to the capital’s crisis would be escalated. No tougher measures will be imposed yet but health chiefs have pledged to boost testing capacity to control any flare-ups. Formal confirmation is expected to be announced later by Public Health England.

Official government figures show London recorded 620 more cases of Covid-19 yesterday – twice as high as the rate last week. But the capital’s outbreak appears to have plateaued since spiking at the start of September, when taking into account separate data that analyses when positive samples were actually taken, not recorded. It can take suspected patients several days to get their test results back. 

Hospital admissions in the capital have tripled in a fortnight, with the rolling average rising from 11 on September 2 to 34.7 by September 19. But the number is still a far cry from the 700-plus at the height of the pandemic in spring and only slightly higher than they were the start of July (around 25). For comparison, 13 times as many admissions were being recorded in March (425 on March 22) — before the national lockdown was imposed. 

Meanwhile, swathes of towns in the North of England and parts of Wales will be hit with local lockdowns tonight in a bid to curb spiralling infections. Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed Wigan and Stockport are to have local restrictions that apply to the rest of Greater Manchester reintroduced.

The Manchester towns were previously removed from restrictions on meeting with people in homes and private gardens after the infection rate fell in the boroughs. The case rate in Wigan currently stands at over 106 cases per 100,000, whilst Stockport has 71 cases per 100,000. From midnight tonight, residents will be banned from mixing indoors or in gardens with people outside their immediate household.

The same raft of measures have also been announced in Leeds and Blackpool – which now follows Lancashire in being placed under local lockdown restrictions, having escaped the measures last Friday. Welsh officials today confirmed Cardiff and Swansea will be hit by the same measures from 6pm on Sunday, while the town of Llanelli will see the new rules come in on Saturday at 6pm. The addition of these areas would take the number of people living under local restrictions to more than 17million across the UK.  

Dozens of areas across England which have seen Covid-19 infection rates spiral over the past month are currently on the watchlist, which is updated every Friday. Authorities are separated into three different categories based on how quickly outbreaks are growing. Local restrictions are imposed in areas carrying the ‘intervention’ tag, while more testing is made available for boroughs listed as being of ‘concern’ and more detailed plans to control cases are made for areas under ‘enhanced support’. 

London is thought to be on the brink of a localised lockdown. Official government data shows the capital recorded 620 more cases of Covid-19 yesterday - twice as high as the rate last week

London is thought to be on the brink of a localised lockdown. Official government data shows the capital recorded 620 more cases of Covid-19 yesterday – twice as high as the rate last week

Covid-19 hospital admissions in the capital have tripled in a fortnight, with the seven-day average rising from 11 on September 2 to 33.4 by September 18. But the number of hospitalisations in the city is still a far cry from the 700-plus at the height of the pandemic in spring and only slightly higher than they were the start of July (around 25), when the country was deemed safe to reopen again

Covid-19 hospital admissions in the capital have tripled in a fortnight, with the seven-day average rising from 11 on September 2 to 33.4 by September 18. But the number of hospitalisations in the city is still a far cry from the 700-plus at the height of the pandemic in spring and only slightly higher than they were the start of July (around 25), when the country was deemed safe to reopen again

London's Covid-19 hotspots could be linked by the Underground network, a striking map reveals. Pictured are the infection rates in London's boroughs, given by the Public Health England report on Friday 18

Public Health England data shows only a handful of London’s 32 boroughs are now seeing a sustained rise in infections – including Redbridge, Hounslow, Barking and Dagenham and Enfield. The data is set to be updated today, but gives an indication of which boroughs are struggling the most 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) believes it has risen 60 per cent over the same time frame and that there are now 9,600 infections a day

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) believes it has risen 60 per cent over the same time frame and that there are now 9,600 infections a day

London Mayor Sadiq Khan pressed for more measures to be imposed to stop cases rising any more before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a nation-wide 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants and encouraged working from home again. Pictured: Soho

London Mayor Sadiq Khan pressed for more measures to be imposed to stop cases rising any more before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a nation-wide 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants and encouraged working from home again. Pictured: Soho

Leeds is also expected to be hit with new restrictions from midnight, including 'more household restrictions' along the lines of those already in force across three of the West Yorkshire districts, because of a rise in cases

Leeds is also expected to be hit with new restrictions from midnight, including ‘more household restrictions’ along the lines of those already in force across three of the West Yorkshire districts, because of a rise in cases

WHAT AREAS ARE ON THE MOST RECENT WATCHLIST? 

The most recent watchlist, published last Friday, included:

INTERVENTION (number of infections recorded up to September 15 for every 100,000 people living there)

BOLTON – 212.7

BLACKBURN WITH DARWEN – 122.9

OADBY AND WIGSTON – 119.2

HYNDBURN – 117.6

PRESTON – 105.1

WARRINGTON – 105.0

TAMESIDE – 103.5

SUNDERLAND – 103.1

OLDHAM – 98.9

BIRMINGHAM – 98.0

BRADFORD – 97.5

LIVERPOOL – 95.8

WIRRAL – 95.6

BURNLEY – 93.8

KNOWSLEY – 92.9

ST HELENS – 91.6

BURY – 90.5

SALFORD – 88.8

LEICESTER – 86.7

SOUTH TYNESIDE – 86.5

ROCHDALE – 84.1

MANCHESTER – 83.6

GATESHEAD – 77.5

SOLIHULL – 77.2

SANDWELL – 72.1

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE – 69.6

PENDLE – 61.3

HALTON – 60.7

KIRKLEES – 60.4

WOLVERHAMPTON – 60.3

CALDERDALE – 59.5

ROSSENDALE – 57.8

SOUTH RIBBLE – 52.5

SEFTON – 49.0

NORTH TYNESIDE – 48.5

WEST LANCASHIRE – 47.4

COUNTY DURHAM – 46.7

TRAFFORD – 45.7

CHORLEY – 35.1

WYRE – 34.2

FYLDE – 28.8

NORTHUMBERLAND – 24.7

LANCASTER – 22.9

RIBBLE VALLEY – 18.3

ENHANCED SUPPORT 

LEEDS – 75.5

BLABY – 65.7

STOCKPORT – 48.7

CONCERN 

SELBY – 65.1

HARTLEPOOL – 55.8

SHEFFIELD – 53.7

SPELTHORNE – 53.4

CORBY – 50.8

MIDDLESBROUGH – 47.0

NORTHAMPTON – 42.6

SCARBOROUGH – 42.3

HERTSMERE – 37.4

PETERBOROUGH – 30.3

STOKE-ON-TRENT – 27.4

In other coronavirus developments today: 

  • National debt hit another record high of more than £2trillion at the end of August as Tory MPs demand the Government urgently set out how the UK will pay for the coronavirus crisis after Rishi Sunak’s latest bailout;
  • Row over Rishi’s £3bn jobs rescue: Bosses say scheme won’t save jobs because there’s ‘little incentive’ to pay wages of staff not in work while Next boss Lord Wolfson warns UK economy risks ‘becoming HOOKED’ on handouts;
  • Scottish students face ‘red and yellow cards’ for breaking Covid rules after freshers were caught throwing illegal parties at university halls;
  • Furious Tories nickname Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance ‘Witless and Unbalanced’ as 40 MPs urge Boris Johnson to be ‘smart’ and give Parliament a vote on all new lockdown rules; 
  • A long-served female worker at Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire pudding plant dies while another is seriously ill in hospital – two weeks after Covid outbreak.

A weekly report by SAGE today said that the R rate for the UK appears to be between 1.2 and 1.5, and is the same in England. These are the highest estimates the chief scientists have given since their regular updates began.

The R appears to be highest in London, the Midlands, North West and the North East, where it is thought to be at the same rate as the UK. This means each infected case passes it on to 1.2 to 1.5 others, or every 10 infect 12 or 15 more. 

SAGE cautions, however, that its estimates of R are around three weeks out of date each time they are published, because they are calculated by watching how the numbers of positive tests and hospital cases change over time. 

The advisory panel also says the growth rate has increased, and the outbreak may now be increasing in size by between four and eight per cent each day. Last week it said it was slightly lower at between three and seven per cent.

But it admitted outbreaks could be growing by as much as nine per cent each day in the South West. 

The decision to put London on the national watchlist comes as a striking MailOnline map today suggested that London’s Covid-19 hotspots may be linked by the city’s bustling underground network. Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, and Sutton — none of which have a Tube station — have the lowest infection rates across the entire city.

London Councils, a cross-party organisation which represents all 32 boroughs and the City of London, said the English capital was being placed on the national Covid-19 watchlist.

The list is divided between ‘areas of intervention’ which usually have local lockdown restrictions, areas of ‘enhanced support’, given more testing for example, and’ areas of concern’ that are closely monitored.

London Councils said no additional measures were being taken in the city but that ‘the city’s testing capacity is boosted so that Londoners have timely access to Covid-19 tests and the government must ensure that this is sustained from now on’.

The organisation said London’s Its entry on the list should serve as a ‘stark reminder that now is time for all Londoners to pull together and take action’.

The watchlist is determined by Health Secretary Matt Hancock after studying epidemiological advice from the chief medical officer, NHS Test and Trace, the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England. 

Sian Berry, Green Party co-leader and London Mayor candidate, said: ‘We have lacked test information in London for weeks, which has caused huge worry for all of us in local and regional government,’ according to The Evening Standard.

‘The news today that Public Health England has added London to its list of areas of concern, using estimates from other data, shows what a crucial time this is, and how all our actions can make a difference.

‘The 10pm closing time for bars and restaurants has already led to crowded scenes on public transport that worry me greatly. My strong advice to Londoners today is to avoid going out in the next few days unless you have to, and find other ways to see friends and family.

‘Like you, I am sad, tired and weary after six months of a gruelling national crisis, but we’re in a dangerous moment, lacking data and tests, and we must work together as a city amid rising signs of infection.’ 

Meanwhile, Blackpool will have extra Covid-19 restrictions imposed for the first time from Saturday along with two other North West towns facing further clampdowns.

Wigan and Stockport, which had been exempt from wider restrictions imposed on Greater Manchester, will now face the same restrictions as the rest of the region.

Blackpool, which had been exempt from restrictions in the rest of Lancashire, will join the rest of the county in having to follow the same rules.

The resort was controversially left out of Lancashire restrictions imposed recently but then saw a huge surge in visitors during the sunny weather last weekend.

Scott Benton, Conservative MP for Blackpool South writing on his Facebook page, said the town’s council and the Government had now decided to impose additional restrictions on the resort, which will bring it into line with the rest of Lancashire which had extra restrictions imposed last week.

Mr Benton said when the decision was made to impose additional restrictions on the rest of Lancashire at the beginning of last week, the Blackpool infection rate was 23 cases per 100,000 people at that time and significantly below the average for the rest of Lancashire.

But by Wednesday the town’s infection rate had increased to 63 cases per 100,000, still below the average for the whole of Lancashire but a significant rise in cases over the last week.

Mr Benton’s post on Facebook said: ‘The rise in cases is particularly high in areas of north Blackpool and the evidence is that this is due to transmission within the community rather than as a result of tourism (this explains why our local infection rate has remained low in comparison to other areas in the North West despite visitors coming here all summer).

HOW HAS THE R RATE CHANGED FROM LAST WEEK?

AREA

UK

England

East

London

Midlands

NE and Yorks

North West

South East

South West

THIS WEEK 

1.2 – 1.5

1.2 – 1.5

 

1.1 – 1.3

1.2 – 1.5

1.2 – 1.5

1.2 – 1.5

1.2 – 1.5

1.0 – 1.3

1.1 – 1.4

LAST WEEK 

1.1 – 1.4

1.2 – 1.4

 

1.0 – 1.3

1.1 – 1.4

1.2 – 1.5

1.2 – 1.4

1.2 – 1.5

1.1 – 1.4

0.9 – 1.6

HOW HAS THE GROWTH RATE CHANGED FROM LAST WEEK?

AREA

UK

England

East

London

Midlands

NE and Yorks

North West

South East

South West

THIS WEEK 

4% to 8%

4% to 8%

 

1% to 4%

4% to 9%

3% to 7%

4% to 8%

3% to 9%

1% to 5%

1% to 6%

LAST WEEK 

3% to 7%

2% to 7%

 

0% to 5%

3% to 7%

4% to 8%

3% to 8%

3% to 8%

3% to 7%

0% to 9%

‘It is vital that we take sensible steps now to reduce the rate of transmission which is why these new restrictions are being applied.

‘Nobody wants a second full lockdown and that idea behind these new rules is to slow the spread of Covid-19 so that we do not end up in a position where a full lockdown has to be considered.’

Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan, said that additional restrictions on mixing between households are to be reimposed on the borough in line with most of Greater Manchester.

She tweeted: ‘The Health Minister confirmed in a call this morning that a rise in infections in Wigan means we’re subject to wider Greater Manchester restrictions again.’

Restrictions were previously eased in Wigan on August 26 as infection rates were low but latest seven-day rolling figures show 106.2 positive cases per 100,000 population.

Stockport is facing the same additional restrictions being re-imposed in Wigan which bans mixing between households which had been allowed since September 2. The restrictions are expected to come in from midnight.

Matt Hancock said in a statement today: ‘The latest data shows a sharp increase in incidence rates per 100,000 population in Leeds, Blackpool, Wigan and Stockport, which are significantly above the national average.

‘As a result, we are making regulations which take effect from Saturday 26 September and will impose restrictions on inter-household mixing in private dwellings and gardens in Leeds, Stockport, Wigan and Blackpool.

‘This is in line with measures seen elsewhere in the country, such as Leicester and the West Midlands. People who live in these areas will not be allowed to gather in a private dwelling or garden with any other household unless in a support bubble. People from anywhere else will also not be allowed to gather with another household in a private dwelling or garden in these areas.

‘We have also reviewed the position in Leicester, the Borough of Oadby and Wigston, Birmingham, Solihull, Sandwell, Wolverhampton, Bolton, Bradford, Kirklees, Calderdale and the remaining local authorities in Greater Manchester and have decided to maintain their position on the watchlist as areas of intervention, as well as the current restrictions in these areas.’

Leeds director of public health Victoria Eaton said the city’s virus rate was 98.5 per 100,000 people with a positive testing rate of 8.4 per cent. Pictured: Students and young people out drinking in the city this week

Leeds director of public health Victoria Eaton said the city’s virus rate was 98.5 per 100,000 people with a positive testing rate of 8.4 per cent. Pictured: Students and young people out drinking in the city this week

Wednesday night out in Leeds: Revellers queue up to party on the last night before the new 10pm curfew announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Wednesday night out in Leeds: Revellers queue up to party on the last night before the new 10pm curfew announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson 

SCOTLAND RECORDS 558 NEW CASES AS NICOLA STURGEON SAYS STUDENTS NOT TO BLAME FOR SPIKE

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted students are not to blame for a rise in coronavirus outbreaks, as she announced a record daily total of new Covid-19 cases.

Hundreds of students at universities across Scotland are self-isolating after outbreaks of the virus.

All students face disciplinary action if they break strict measures imposed on them by their universities, including bans on visiting pubs over this weekend and restrictions on socialising.

Speaking at the daily briefing in Edinburgh, the First Minister said 558 people tested positive for coronavirus in Scotland in the past 24 hour, bringing the total to 26,518.

This is the highest daily total since the pandemic began – but it is impossible to compare numbers now to those recorded during the first wave because so few tests were carried out in March and April.

There has also been a rise in the positivity rates of tests to 9.5 per cent, but no new deaths have been recorded – meaning the total number of fatalities remains at 2,510.

Addressing students, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I am so sorry, so heart sorry, that this time of your lives is being made as tough as it is just now – I really feel for you, but I feel especially for those of you starting university for the first time and, of course, living alone for the first time.

‘This is an exciting time in your lives but I remember from my own experience… that it’s also a time of adjustment and it’s also a time of home sickness as well, and that’s the case for students every year without Covid-19 but it is much more difficult given the circumstances you are all facing right now.’

She said some students feel they are being blamed for the spread of Covid-19 but ‘that is not the case’. ‘It’s not your fault,’ she added.  

The statement continues: ‘This will be difficult news for the people living in these areas, profoundly affecting their daily lives. These decisions are not taken lightly, and such measures will be kept under review and in place no longer than they are necessary.

‘There are exemptions to these measures so people can still meet with those in their support bubble. There are other limited exemptions such as for work purposes or to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person.

‘Through the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Protected Areas and Linked Childcare Households) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, people may create an exclusive childcare bubble for the purposes of informal childcare for children under 14, helping ease pressure on those living under local restrictions so they can get to work.’

Meanwhile the council leader of Leeds Judith Blake said she expected Leeds will be made an ‘area of intervention’ this Friday, up from enhanced support last week. It means ‘more household restrictions along the lines of those already in force across three of the West Yorkshire districts in Bradford, Kirkless and Calderdale’, she said. From Tuesday, people in those areas have been banned from socialising with anyone not part of their household or support bubble in private homes and gardens.

Ms Blake told reporters: ‘We expect them to come in from midnight.’ The addition of Leeds’ 793,000 population would take the number of people living under local restrictions to more than 17million people across the UK.

Leeds director of public health Victoria Eaton said the city’s virus rate was 98.5 per 100,000 people with a positive testing rate of 8.4 per cent. For comparison, Bolton’s is 218.4 and the highest in England.

Mr Eaton said: ‘The spread of the virus is very dynamic across the city. It’s clear to see we have very widespread community transmissions right across the city.

‘We have high rates in some of our student areas which we have increased more recently. It’s clearly not just an issue for student areas.’

She said cases were rising in all age groups, not just young adults and that compliance with self-isolation rules was low in Leeds.

‘We want to find ways to support local people to isolate,’ she said. ‘The expectation is the restrictions will be in place for a longer period of time, potentially right through the winter.’  Both London and Leeds have been feared to be tinkering on the brink of a ‘local lockdown’ for at least a week. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan pressed for more measures to be imposed to stop cases rising any more before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a nation-wide 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants and encouraged working from home again.

Infections across the city has more than doubled since August, with the seven-day weekly average number of cases rising from 86 per 100,000 to 262 per 100,000.  

Ministers are said to be mulling a decision to place more than 9million people in the city under even tighter restrictions, if the new suite of national social distancing measures announced by the Government this week fail to curb climbing numbers.  

The most up-to-date statistics released by Public Health England (PHE), which cover the week ending September 18, reveal that just a single borough in the capital — Redbridge — ranks among the top 40 worst-hit regions of the country. 

But infection rates in 20 London boroughs are higher than areas of England already hit by restrictions. PHE will publish its latest batch of figures on infections this afternoon which will also confirm London’s spot on the watchlist. 

It comes as the Welsh Government announce Cardiff and Swansea will go into local lockdown from 6pm on Sunday, and the town of Llanelli on Saturday at 6pm.

Under the restrictions, people will not be able to enter or leave the areas without a reasonable excuse. They will not be able to meet indoors with anyone they do not live with, with extended households suspended.

People must work from home when possible, health minister Vaughan Gething told a press conference in Cardiff.   

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Over the past seven days, Cardiff reached a test positivity rate of 3.8 per cent, exceeding the Welsh Government’s ‘amber’ threshold of 2.5 per cent – part of its ‘traffic light roadmap’ strategy for managing the pandemic.

On Thursday, Cardiff Council leader Huw Thomas said the capital had seen 38.2 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people over the past five days. Swansea’s rate is 49.8. 

From 6pm on Thursday, changes to coronavirus regulations mean Welsh hospitality businesses including pubs, cafes, restaurants, sports clubs and casinos must not supply alcohol between 10pm and 6am the following day.

Licensed premises will only be able to provide table service for customers when consuming food or drink, and following a 20-minute period to allow customers to finish their drinks at 10pm, must close by 10.20pm.

During a behind-closed-doors briefing this week, Kevin Fenton, director of Public Health England in London, told Mayor Mr Khan and the leaders of all 32 boroughs that all signs indicated the disease was making a rapid resurgence in the city. 

Professor Fenton argued testing infrastructure had been stripped out of the capital and reallocated to hotspots in the north, meaning many Londoners may have gone undiagnosed. 

He warned cases could be being massively under-reported due to Londoners struggling to get access to tests, and that increased hospital admissions and a rising number of calls to 111 were better indicators that London was in the midst of an outbreak as serious as in the northeast.

Professor Fenton told The Times: ‘We are seeing a rising tide of coronavirus cases in London across a broad range of ages. This is no longer limited to young people in their twenties.’ 

He said that ‘whilst the number of cases by borough varies, the general trend across the city is one of steadily increasing transmission and if that continues then the situation may escalate’.   

Professor Fenton revealed that about that about a fifth of testing capacity had been stripped from the capital and reallocated to hotspots in the north this month. 

In the middle of August there were about 90,000 tests being done every week in London, but there were just 65,000 carried out last week, according to Professor Fenton. 

But the latest Department of Health figures show testing in London has actually increased week-on-week. 

There were 85,000 tests done across the capital in the week up to September 16, up from 75,000 the previous seven days. Even the capital’s hotspots are enjoying more access to swabs – Barking carried out 2,669 tests in the week ending September 16, 25 per cent more than the week before, when 2,036 swabs were done. In Redbridge, 3,370 residents were checked for the virus in the latest reporting period, compared to 3,046 the week prior, a rise of nearly 10 per cent. 

BETWEEN 9,000 AND 16,000 PEOPLE GETTING INFECTED EACH DAY, DATA SHOWS

The North West is still bearing most of the brunt of the second wave, but Yorkshire, London and the North East are seeing significant outbreaks

The North West is still bearing most of the brunt of the second wave, but Yorkshire, London and the North East are seeing significant outbreaks

Between 9,000 and 16,000 Britons are getting infected with coronavirus every day, according to researchers monitoring the UK’s outbreak.

King’s College London (KCL) scientists behind the COVID Symptom Tracker mobile app estimate there were at least 16,310 daily cases of the disease in the last week, more than double the 7,536 estimated last week.

The Office for National Statistics, a Government-run agency, has made a more modest estimate today, saying it thinks around 9,600 people are contracting the virus every day, a 60 per cent rise from the 6,000 a week prior. 

Both surveillance projects are picking up far more than the Government’s official testing programme, which recorded 6,000-plus cases on Thursday and Wednesday.

KCL collects its data by sending tests to people who report tell-tale symptoms of Covid-19 into the mobile app, while the ONS study sends tests to random households regardless of their health status.  

Data from the symptom-tracking app, which has seen millions of Brits sign up, suggests there are nearly 150,000 people currently suffering symptomatic Covid-19, although many more will have no symptoms. This figure has more than doubled since last week, when there were about 70,000 symptomatic patients. The chief scientist behind the app said it was fresh evidence the crisis was ‘rising at an alarming rate’.  

The ONS, on the other hand, estimates that about 113,000 people are currently carrying the virus – equating to around one in 500 people – although the number-crunching body only looks at England and Wales.

It comes as Matt Hancock yesterday suggested the true number of cases occurring each day was in the region of 10,000. And the Health Secretary pointed out that the spike now is nowhere near levels seen during the darkest days of the crisis in March and April, when 100,000 people were getting infected every 24 hours.

Official figures show the outbreak may finally be slowing down, despite hospital admissions for coronavirus having tripled in a fortnight and public health chiefs warning of a ‘rising tide’ of the virus in the capital.  

Only a handful of boroughs now seeing a sustained rise in infections — including Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham, two of the three worst-hit parts of the capital.  

Redbridge, in east London, is suffering the highest number of infections of anywhere in the capital, with a weekly case rate of 34.2 per 100,000 people, according to PHE data up to September 18. 

The borough of 300,000 people currently has just the 40th highest infection rate in the UK but it has suffered a sustained increase in diagnoses of Covid-19 over the past month and a half.

Figures show infections have tripled in Redbridge since September 4, when the rate was 11.2 per 100,000 per week, and have risen by tenfold since the start of August (3.3).

And Redbridge’s actual number of new infections being diagnosed each day — figures which are provided by the Department of Health — is one of the only borough’s to still be on the up. It went from a rolling seven-day average of three cases at the end of August to almost 23 at the end of last week. 

The Department of Health data, published on the government’s coronavirus dashboard, takes into account daily cases by specimen date, meaning they lag behind by a few days because it can take upwards of 72 hours to get a result back.

The west London borough of Hounslow has been the second worst-hit region in the capital, with a weekly case rate of 32.5 per 100,000 in the week ending September 18. Like Redbridge, Hounslow has seen cases triple in the past three weeks after rising from 5.9 new infections per 100,000 people at the start of August.

But Department of Health data shows cases in Hounslow, home to 290,000 people, have started to fall. Around 16 actual cases were being diagnosed each day on September 7, up from four at the end of August. But this dropped to below nine on the most recent full-day of data, September 16.

Hounslow has one of the largest South Asian populations in the country – about 20 per cent, compared to the 2 per cent national average – who have been disproportionately affected the virus throughout the crisis.

The weekly infection rates in both boroughs are still significantly lower than the UK average, which is about 47 per 100,000. Although this figure is being skewed upwards due to outbreaks in the likes of Bolton, Blackburn and Oldham.

The east London borough of Barking and Dagenham is suffering 29.3 infections per 100,000, having more than doubled since the start of the month, when the case rate was 12.3 per 100,000, and quadrupling since August 1 (5.9 per 100,000).

Department of Health figures suggest its rolling seven-day average number of daily infections is also still on the up. The borough, home to around 210,000 people, recorded an average of four cases a day at the end of August. This jumped to around nine during the start of September before levelling off. 

But figures for the past week, which are not yet deemed to be accurate because of the three-day lag it takes for coronavirus test samples to be analysed, suggest it may yet be hit by another spike.

Rounding out the top 10 worst-hit boroughs in London for infection rates are Enfield (27.3), Newham (27), Ealing (26.9), Hackney (25.7), Tower Hamlets (25.5), Hammersmith and Fulham (24.8), Harrow (24.4) and Havering (24.4), all of which were up on the week before except Newham. 

Figures show infections have tripled in Redbridge since September 4, when the rate was 11.2 per 100,000 per week, and have risen by tenfold since the start of August (3.3)

Figures show infections have tripled in Redbridge since September 4, when the rate was 11.2 per 100,000 per week, and have risen by tenfold since the start of August (3.3)

The east London borough of Barking and Dagenham is suffering 29.3 infections per 100,000, having more than doubled since the start of the month, when the case rate was 12.3 per 100,000, and quadrupling since August 1 (5.9 per 100,000)

The east London borough of Barking and Dagenham is suffering 29.3 infections per 100,000, having more than doubled since the start of the month, when the case rate was 12.3 per 100,000, and quadrupling since August 1 (5.9 per 100,000)

The west London borough of Hounslow has been the second worst-hit region in the capital, with a weekly case rate of 32.5 per 100,000 in the week ending September 18

The west London borough of Hounslow has been the second worst-hit region in the capital, with a weekly case rate of 32.5 per 100,000 in the week ending September 18

MailOnline revealed today London’s Covid-19 hotspots could be linked by the city’s bustling underground network, according to a striking map based on government data. 

The cluster of cases appear to be centered along the 11 Tube-lines — used by some 2million people every day before the pandemic struck. 

It means areas in the north west and north east of London may be suffering from bigger outbreaks than the south, simply because they have more public transport links. Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, and Sutton — none of which have a Tube station —  have the lowest infection rates across the entire city.

The connection has previously been discovered by experts looking at other contagious respiratory diseases that spread via droplets, such as the coronavirus. British scientists have previously linked busy Tube stations to worse flu outbreaks.

The more changes passengers needed to make on their journey, the more contact they were likely to have with other people. This would potentially be the case with London’s three top hotspots — Redbridge, Hounslow, and Barking and Dagenham — all of which are only served by one Tube line.

Nine of 32 boroughs which were found to have higher cases of the flu, based solely on their London underground connections, now also have higher Covid-19 infection rates. Scientists say the Tube is the ‘perfect environment’ for a virus to spread because of crowding, poor ventilation and dirty surfaces touched by millions.

But experts say the pattern may be more complicated than that — it may be more key workers, who are vulnerable to picking up the virus because they come into close contact with lots of people, choose to live near a Tube line in order to get around easier, while those able to work from home live further out in the suburban commuter belt. 

Infection rates may also be heavily influenced by the borough’s deprivation, as Government studies have shown poorer areas have been shown to have more Covid-19 deaths, and ethnic diversity, as Black, Asian and ethnic minorities have been harder hit by the pandemic for a multitude of reasons.

Millions of travellers were put off the tube during the peak of the first wave of the coronavirus because the Government ruled against any travel other than essential. 

But since restrictions have been lifted in response to the outbreak dwindling, hundreds of thousands more journeys are now being made. Tube capacity has risen to around 35 per cent, up from four per cent in April and May. Cases also appear to keep rising in London alongside the uptick in journeys. 

MailOnline analysis last week revealed that 20 boroughs in total across London have infection rates higher than areas of England already hit by restrictions, including Kensington and Chelsea (23.7), Wandsworth (23), Brent 22.7.

Public Health England’s most recent watchlist shows the authority in England with the lowest case rate considered an ‘area of intervention’ — the highest degree of concern — is Ribble Valley, with 18.3 cases per 100,000.  

Meanwhile, several boroughs in the capital have managed to keep virus cases suppressed since August, despite the upwards trend seen across the nation. 

The south London borough of Sutton ranks among the 25 least affected areas in England, with a current weekly case rate of 9.3 per 100,000, according to PHE data up to September 18.

This actually fell from the previous week (10.3) and has just by just 45 per cent from the start of August (6.4).  Bromley (11.8), Bexley (12.1), Merton (13.6), Croydon (14) and Kingston upon Thames (14.3) have the five lowest weekly infection rates after Sutton.

All of those boroughs, excluding Merton, do not have an underground station, which may partly explain the low number of cases. British scientists have previously linked busy tube stations to worse flu outbreaks. 

Testing bosses say they’ve had to prioritise resources at a time when the country is struggling to ramp up capacity fast enough to deal with the looming second wave. 

Boris Johnson has pledged for the UK to be able to process 500,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of next month, more than double the current 242,000 capacity. But industry insiders say this target could be missed because of delays in machines and chemicals. 

Meanwhile, between 9,000 and 16,000 Britons are getting infected with coronavirus every day, according to researchers monitoring the UK’s outbreak.

King’s College London (KCL) scientists behind the COVID Symptom Tracker mobile app estimate there were at least 16,310 daily cases of the disease in the last week, more than double the 7,536 estimated last week.

The Office for National Statistics, a Government-run agency, has made a more modest estimate today, saying it thinks around 9,600 people are contracting the virus every day, a 60 per cent rise from the 6,000 a week prior. 

Both surveillance projects are picking up far more than the Government’s official testing programme, which recorded 6,000-plus cases on Thursday and Wednesday.

KCL collects its data by sending tests to people who report tell-tale symptoms of Covid-19 into the mobile app, while the ONS study sends tests to random households regardless of their health status.  

Data from the symptom-tracking app, which has seen millions of Brits sign up, suggests there are nearly 150,000 people currently suffering symptomatic Covid-19, although many more will have no symptoms. This figure has more than doubled since last week, when there were about 70,000 symptomatic patients. The chief scientist behind the app said it was fresh evidence the crisis was ‘rising at an alarming rate’.  

The ONS, on the other hand, estimates that about 113,000 people are currently carrying the virus – equating to around one in 500 people – although the number-crunching body only looks at England and Wales.

It comes as Matt Hancock yesterday suggested the true number of cases occurring each day was in the region of 10,000. And the Health Secretary pointed out that the spike now is nowhere near levels seen during the darkest days of the crisis in March and April, when 100,000 people were getting infected every 24 hours.

KCL has based its latest estimates on nearly 7,000 tests this week, of which 151 were positive – about three times more than the ONS.  

More positive tests improves the accuracy of the data but the study may have a slight bias because it only swabs people who are already ill.

The ONS study sends tests to random groups of people, which may give a better indication of the true scale of the virus. But the real number of infections is likely to lie somewhere in the middle, and both data-sets are being fed into Government to help steer it through the crisis. 

KCL’s fresh batch of data was based on 6,847 swab tests done between September 7 and September 20 from people right across the UK, during which 151 people tested positive for the virus.

Researchers then extrapolate this data to the general population to make estimates about the virus’s trajectory. 

The app estimates 147,498 people have symptomatic Covid-19 in the UK right now, with 55,201 patients in England, 14,319 in Scotland and 9,075 in Wales. They did not make estimates for Northern Ireland.

Almost half of the new daily infections are occurring in the North of England (7,778) but London, Glasgow and Belfast are also seeing ‘worrying’ rises, according to the KCL team. 

Broken down, the North West of England is being battered hardest by the latest surge in infections, with estimated cases tripling in the last seven days from 12,544 to 36,316. 

In the North East and Yorkshire and London, infections have more than doubled from 12,916 to 27,731 and 9,291 to 18,200, respectively.

The researchers now predict the reproduction ‘R’ rate – the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects – is dangerously high across the UK – 1.4 in England and Wales and 1.3 in Scotland.

Experts say keeping the R squashed below 1.0 is essential to prevent the outbreak from growing exponentially and spiralling out of control. 

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and the brains behind the app, said: ‘The number of cases in the UK continues to rise at an alarming rate as we are seeing figures doubling weekly across the country, in particular we are worried about places like London and other major cities like Manchester, Belfast and Glasgow where cases are surging and the R value is around 1.4.’ 



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