Britain’s daily Covid cases plunged for the 12th day in a row today as the fourth wave continued to collapse and workers headed back to offices in their largest numbers since Omicron took off.
Another 84,429 tests came back positive for the virus in the past 24 hours, according to Government dashboard data, down around 41 per cent on last week. Daily cases have fallen week-on-week since January 6.
There were also 85 coronavirus deaths registered today in a 10 per cent rise compared to last Monday. Latest hospital data shows there were 2,357 admissions on January 11, virtually unchanged in a week.
In a sign of public confidence in the promising stats, London’s roads were the busiest they have been during the morning rush-hour since the day Boris Johnson confirmed that England would enter Plan B restrictions.
Congestion data recorded by location services company TomTom found the level in the capital between 8am and 9am this morning was at 69 per cent – the highest it has been for that time period in six weeks since December 8.
The congestion level represents the extra travel time for drivers on average compared to baseline uncongested conditions – so a 69 per cent level means a 30-minute trip will take 21 minutes more than with no traffic.
Today’s figure was also above the 2019 average of 63 per cent and 2020 average of 49 per cent for 8am on a Monday in London – showing there were more cars on the road in the capital today than before the pandemic. The figure last Monday was 61 per cent, while it was just 2 per cent on Monday, January 3 but this was a bank holiday.
It comes six weeks after Plan B measures were announced which mandated the wearing of masks in shops and public transport, as well as vaccine passports in nightclubs and large venues. People have also been encouraged to work from home since December 13 – but there is growing hope that most of these restrictions will end a week on Wednesday. However, it is possible that some measures could continue, such as masks on public transport.
Meanwhile Transport for London told MailOnline that up to 10am this morning there were around one million entry and exit taps across the Underground – which is an increase of 8 per cent on last Monday.
On the buses there were 1.2million taps, which was a weekly increase of 4 per cent. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, Tube ridership on weekdays is between 45 and 48 per cent, and weekday bus ridership at 70 per cent.
Commuters wait for a Jubilee line train at London Bridge station on the London Underground this morning
People cross London Bridge in cold weather today as commuters go into the office on a Monday morning
People sit on the Jubilee line on the London Underground network this morning as Tube ridership increases week-on-week
TfL said ridership is nearer pre-pandemic levels at weekends – with the Tube then at 60 per cent of levels before Covid, which is partially down to the Government’s working from home guidance having an impact on weekdays.
The number of Tube passengers will also be affected in the coming weeks by the 17-week closure of the Northern line between Moorgate and Kennington due to the Bank station upgrade works which began two days ago.
Shorter isolation period comes into effect today
People in England can now end their coronavirus isolation after five full days in a move hailed as restoring ‘extra freedoms’.
In a change to self-isolation guidance from today, people can leave quarantine after five full days, so long as they test negative on days five and six.
Ministers had been under pressure to reduce the isolation period – which was previously seven days – to help address staff shortages across the economy and public services by allowing people to return to work earlier.
The Government said research showed that between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of people are still infectious by day six, but the percentage of those released while infectious falls to around 7 per cent if people have two consecutive negative tests and then leave isolation from day six.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Following a robust review of the evidence, we have reduced the minimum self-isolation period to five full days in England.
‘This is a balanced and proportionate approach to restore extra freedoms and reduce the pressure on essential public services over the winter. It is crucial people only stop self-isolating after two negative tests to ensure you are not infectious.’
The Department of Health said the default self-isolation period remains 10 days, and that people can only end it early if they receive two negative results on consecutive days – the earliest being days five and six.
It comes as official figures showed coronavirus cases are now falling in virtually every area of England as the Omicron wave continues to collapse with deaths six times lower than in the second wave.
Some 6,519 out of 6,790 neighbourhoods (96 per cent) around the country recorded a fall in infections in the week to January 11, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
It means 54million people are living in places with declining case rates now just eight weeks after Omicron burst onto the scene in late November and sent infections to record levels.
Parts of Castle Point, Shropshire and Bexley have seen infections fall by more than 70 per cent week-on-week.
Deaths – which are the biggest lagging indicator of the trend in infections – are still rising slowly but there are an average of just 212 per day now compared to 1,200 per day at the peak of Alpha wave last January, despite three times more infections this wave.
The weakened link between infections and less severe outcomes is down to protection from the vaccines, natural immunity, antivirals and Omicron, which is thought to be intrinsically milder than older strains.
This is also highlighted in intensive care rates, with 4.5 times fewer patients moved to mechanical ventilation beds and half as many patients in hospital overall.
There is now growing optimism among the Government, its own scientific advisers and even the World Health Organization which says the UK is on the cusp of taming Covid.
Dr Mike Tildesley, a modeller on an influential SAGE committee, today predicted the UK would have a flu-like relationship with Covid by the end of the year.
He said the country has almost reached a point where ministers could start discussing what ‘living with’ Covid would be like.
Dr David Nabarro, the WHO’s special envoy on Covid, said there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for Britain amid plummeting case numbers and stable hospital rates.
Britain had one of the fastest vaccination programmes in the world, which coupled with high levels of natural immunity from sustained transmission within the community has allowed England to be one of the most open countries in Europe.
Congestion data recorded by TomTom found the level in London between 8am and 9am this morning (far right) was at 69 per cent – the highest it has been for that time period in six weeks since December 8. Figures for the past week are shown above
Transport for London usage fell dramatically when Plan B restrictions came in last month – but levels are now recovering again
This TfL graphic shows the breakdown of taps by passengers on the Underground when split by type of station
Plan B restrictions are still in place, with staff told to work from home and vaccine passports required for some events, but these are expected to be dropped by the end of the month.
SAGE modeller predicts UK will have a ‘flu-type’ relationship with Covid by the end of the year
The continued drop in UK Covid cases indicates the Omicron wave may well be ‘turning around’, a leading expert advising the Government has said.
Prof Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick and a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M), said the latest case figures are ‘cautiously good news’ and he hopes the country may have a ‘flu-type’ relationship with the virus by the end of the year.
The latest data shows a 38 per cent drop over the last seven days across the UK in the numbers testing positive for Covid-19, with 70,924 new cases reported yesterday.
Prof Tildesley told BBC Breakfast ‘it does look like across the whole of the country cases do seem to be falling’, adding: ‘We have had very, very high case numbers throughout late December and early January – we peaked about 200,000 at one point.
‘We do now seem to be a little bit beyond that. Hospital admissions are still relatively high, albeit there is some evidence that maybe they’re plateauing or possibly going down in London, which is cautiously good news.
‘I would say we probably need about an extra week of data to really see the effect of children going back to school – we’re still only two weeks since children went back to school – but if we still see that over the next week or so, I’d be pretty confident that we are seeing this wave turning around.’
Asked whether changes in testing rules, which means people do not always need a PCR test, may have contributed to the drop in cases, he added: ‘Yesterday was a Sunday and we were in the region of 70,000 (cases), which is a lot lower than previous Sundays, so I think, even taking into account any changes in testing, I think it is pretty clear that the Omicron wave is slowing down.’
The expert said he hopes that by the end of the year the nation will have a different relationship with Covid-19.
Education Secretary and former vaccine tsar Nadhim Zahawi said the country’s Covid data is ‘promising’ and he is ‘confident’ restrictions can be eased later this month.
UKHSA data shows cases fell in 6,519 of 6,790 of England’s local authorities in the week to January 11, with rates plummeting fastest in Hadleigh North in Castle Point (71.5 per cent), Bridgnorth East in Shropshire (71.2 per cent) and Albany Park in Bexley (71.1 per cent) in the week to January 11.
There were near-70 per cent falls in parts of Cumbria, Essex and Sussex.
Meanwhile, cases are continuing to double cent week-on-week in parts of Birmingham and Bradford, with positive tests inclining quickest in Bordesley Green North, Toller Lane & Infirmary and Chellow Heights.
Parts of Peterborough and Sheffield have also seen big upticks, official data shows.
But daily data signals that the Omicron wave is subsiding, with just 70,924 positive samples announced yesterday across Britain, the lowest figure in more than a month.
And despite lags in reporting confirmed cases over the weekend, case numbers have been trending downwards for 11 days.
With experts saying that the latest wave has already peaked, official data shows its impact has been a fraction of the level of the wave seen last winter.
The Office for National Statistics estimates the second wave took off in early September 2020 before subsiding by April 2021.
Official figures show cases spiked at 76,000 and nearly 40,000 patients were in hospital at one time, while more than 4,000 people required ventilators and 1,360 daily deaths were recorded at last winter’s peak.
Despite the number of positive Covid samples registered more than tripling to 246,000, hospitalisation levels and deaths over the same period are a fraction of the number seen last year.
UKHSA data shows the number of infected patients in hospital peaked at 19,876 on January 10 – half the level seen at the peak last winter.
And Omicron’s increased transmissibility led to nearly 40 per cent of Covid patients in England being so-called incidental, according to NHS England data.
It means they were not primarily being treated for the virus, suggesting the latest wave was even milder than the figures suggest.
As Boris Johnson prepares to review the Plan B rules on mandatory mask-wearing, working from home and Covid passes on January 26, Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden indicated things are looking good for a rolling back of measures.
UK Health Security Agency data shows Covid cases are falling in 96 per cent of the country’s nearly 7,000 neighbourhoods. The maps show the number of cases per 100,000 people in each region, with darker colours equating to more infections. The first map shows case rates in the week to January 4, while the second map shows cases in the week to January 11
UKHSA data shows Covid infections fell in the week to January 11. The maps show the number of cases per 100,000 people in each part of London, with darker colours equating to more infections. The first map shows case rates in the week to January 4, while the second map shows cases in the week to January 11
The Office for National Statistics estimates the second wave took off in early September 2020 before subsiding by April 2021. Official figures show cases spiked at 76,000 during the Alpha-fuelled wave, while three times as many cases were recorded at the peak of 246,000 this winter
Despite the number of positive Covid samples registered during the third wave being three times higher than during the second wave, UKHSA data shows the number of infected patients in hospital peaked at 19,876 (red line) on January 10 2022 – half the level seen at the peak last winter, when 39,254 infected people were in hospital (yellow line)
The number of Covid patients who were moved on to mechanical ventilation beds to help with their breathing dropped over the course of the Omicron wave. Some 900 infected patients were in the critical care beds on January 4, the most recent peak (red line), compared to 4,077 on January 24 last year (yellow line) – equating to 4.5 times fewer patients
And Covid fatalities within 28 days of a positive test were six times lower at the peak this winter compared to 12 months earlier. Some 1,359 coronavirus fatalities were registered on January 19 2021 (yellow line), compared to 236 Covid deaths on January 9 2022 (red line), the most recent peak in the Omicron wave
He said there has been ‘some very promising data’ on infections and hospital admissions from the Omicron variant, which ‘gives us pause for hope and optimism’.
Mr Dowden told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme yesterday: ‘It has always been my hope that we would have the Plan B restrictions for the shortest period possible.
‘I’m under no doubt the kind of burdens this puts hospitality, wider business, schools and so on under, and I want us to get rid of those if we possibly can.
‘The signs are encouraging but, clearly, we will wait to see the data ahead of that final decision.’
UKHSA data shows cases are falling in 6,519 of 6,790 of England’s local authorities, with rates plummeting fastest in Hadleigh North in Castle Point (71.5 per cent), Bridgnorth East in Shropshire (71.2 per cent) and Albany Park in Bexley (71.1 per cent) in the week to January 11. Infections are also tumbling in Woodbank Park in Stockport (70.7 per cent), Rayleigh South East in Rochford (70 per cent) and Belfairs in Southend-on-Sea (69.9 per cent). Dalton South in Barrow-in-Furness, Margaretting, Stock & Ramsden in Chelmsford, Fernhurst & Northchapel in Chichester and the Dales & South Skegby in Ashfield have also seen cases fall by nearly 70 per cent in a week
Meanwhile, cases are continuing to rise by up to 104 per cent week-on-week in parts of Birmingham and Bradford, with positive tests inclining quickest in Bordesley Green North, Toller Lane & Infirmary and Chellow Heights. Thornbury, Brown Royd, Canterbury and Heaton Highgate in Bradford, Central Park in Peterborough, Balsall Heath East in Birmingham and Burngreave & Grimesthorpe in Sheffield have also seen cases continue to rise by up to 83 per cent in the week to January 11. But daily data signals that the Omicron wave is subsiding, with just 70,924 positive samples announced yesterday, the lowest figure in more than a month
Figures compiled by Oxford University experts at Our World in Data, shows that while Covid cases have reached record levels across the UK in the latest wave of infections, the number of patients in hospital, on ventilators and deaths are a fraction of the level recorded in previous surges in infections
As the jabs rollout continues, NHS England said that from today boosters will be offered to children aged 12 to 15 who are most at risk from coronavirus.
They said clinically at-risk children in this age group or those who live with someone who has a weakened immune system are entitled to their booster three months after their two primary doses, and those who are severely immunosuppressed are eligible for a booster after a third primary dose.
Meanwhile all 16 and 17-year-olds in England can get their boosters from Monday. About 40,000 teenagers will be eligible for their top-up dose as the national booking service opens in the latest phase of the vaccine programme.
Previously, boosters were only recommended for clinically vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds who are most at risk from Covid-19.