Britain announced another 13,494 coronavirus cases and 678 deaths today, with both measures having fallen by more than a quarter in a week.
Department of Health data show that the number of people testing positive for the virus has dropped by 35 per cent from 20,634 last Thursday – and the daily death count was down 26 per cent from 915.
And the country’s vaccine roll-out continues to rattle ahead at speed, with 450,000 extra doses given yesterday, taking the total number of people to be immunised to 13,509,108. The NHS must reach just 1.5million of the most vulnerable people over the next four days – an average 375,000 per day – to hit its target of 15m by Monday.
More proof the worst of the second Covid wave has passed emerged today as Test and Trace data showed cases fell by a quarter last week and separate figures revealed infections dropped in every region and age group.
With all key metrics now indicating England is well past the peak, pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to ease lockdown drastically when he announces his ‘route map’ out of the shutdown on February 22.
Today’s Test and Trace report showed 149,000 people referred to the scheme were diagnosed with the disease in the week up to February 3 — down 24 per cent on the previous week. It is the lowest weekly number since England came out of its second national lockdown and before the second wave spiralled out of control.
Meanwhile, Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report showed Covid cases are continuing to fall in every English region and among every age group.
The West Midlands has the highest rate at 237.6 per 100,000 people, down from 326.8 in the previous week. The South West has the lowest rate at 120.3, falling from 176.5. Infections are highest among 30 to 39-year-olds, the figures show, at 265.3 cases per 100,000 people. For people aged 80 and over, who are most at risk of dying from the virus, the rate fell from 294.6 to 200.5.
PHE’s report also found 145 out of 149 local authorities (97 per cent) recorded a drop in the weekly rate of coronavirus cases and one area remained unchanged in the seven days to February 7.
Despite the outbreak continuing to shrink and the vaccine roll-out storming ahead, prominent SAGE scientists called for longer restrictions to drive cases down to almost nothing. No10’s top scientific advisers warned there must be no more than 10,000 Britons infected on any given day — the equivalent of fewer than 1,000 daily cases — before Boris Johnson should start easing the measures.
But furious Tory MPs fumed that the UK’s hugely successful Covid vaccine roll-out will be pointless if it doesn’t unlock Britain from brutal lockdown curbs soon.
The Test and Trace report also revealed more than 80 per cent of close contacts of infected patients were reached and asked to self-isolate — a threshold set by SAGE which is key to the programme be successful at thwarting outbreaks.
The scheme managed to hunt down 87 per cent of Covid patients, about 130,000, and 94 per cent of their close contacts, or 265,000.
But there were still almost 20,000 people who tested positive and could not be traced, plus everyone they’d come into contact with during their illness.
Only four areas saw a spike in infection rates during first week of February
All but four areas in England saw coronavirus infection rates fall during the first week of February, official figures revealed today in yet more evidence the second wave is firmly in retreat.
Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report found 145 out of 149 local authorities (97 per cent) recorded a drop in the weekly rate of coronavirus cases and one area remained unchanged in the seven days to February 7.
Rutland in the East Midlands saw the largest increase with infection rates doubling to 463 per 100,000, while Calderdale in West Yorkshire reported a 17 per cent rise to 192.
Rutland’s outbreak is thought to be being partly fuelled by an outbreak of the disease among prisoners at HMP Stocken, believed to have accounted for around half of all cases in its county area.
Middlesbrough recorded a slight uptick of 5 per cent, taking its rate to 373 per 100,000 and there was a 3 per cent increase in Bolton, where the rate rose to 283.
East Sussex saw the biggest drop in infection rates, followed by the London borough of Haringey, the Isle of Wight and Thurrock in Essex.
The figures also highlight the Test and Trace programme is still failing to turn around Covid tests within 24 hours, despite Boris Johnson promising last June that everyone who took a PCR swab would get a result inside a day.
But figures show the average turnaround time for a home testing kit is 35 hours. In-person swabs are faring much better, with 97 per cent of results sent out in a day.
Health Minister Lord Bethell said: ‘More people than ever before have had a Covid-19 test this week and have also received their test result quickly and conveniently despite the demands on the service.
‘These numbers are hugely impressive and have an enormous impact on the spread of the virus.’
It comes after Britain yesterday announced 13,013 more coronavirus cases and 1,001 deaths yesterday, with both metrics down significantly from last week.
Covid infections were down by a third on last Wednesday’s figure, while fatalities shrunk by a quarter compared to the tally a week ago.
The number of Covid patients in hospital has also fallen by more than a fifth in a week, with just over 26,000 beds now taken up by sufferers compared to almost 40,000 at the peak last month.
Meanwhile, Department of Health officials revealed another 415,000 vaccines were administered on Tuesday, with more than 13million Brits having now received their first dose.
With all the key statistics now pointing towards a quickly shrinking epidemic, and with the vaccine rollout steaming ahead, pressure is mounting on the Government to start dropping the most brutal lockdown curbs.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to lay out a ‘route map’ out of the national shutdown on February 22, with schools expected to be the first to go back sometime after March 8.
If the country follows the Israeli roadmap for defeating coronavirus then it suggests Britain will only begin
Britain will only begin to emerge from lockdown at the end of May, if it follows the Israeli roadmap for defeating coronavirus.
Israel has started implementing a three-stage plan to exit draconian Covid restrictions – similar to the blueprint Boris Johnson is set to lay out on February 22.
The number of people who tested positive for coronavirus through the NHS Test and Trace programme fell by a quarter last week. Today’s report showed 149,000 people referred to the scheme were diagnosed with the disease in the week up to February 3, down 24 per cent on the previous week
Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report showed Covid cases are continuing to fall in every English region
The report also showed infections are highest among 30 to 39-year-olds at 265.3 cases per 100,000 people. For people aged 80 and over, who are most at risk of dying from the virus, the rate fell from 294.6 to 200.5
A sea of blue – representing local authorities where the weekly Covid case rate is lower than 190 per 100,000 – has washed over the country thanks to the brutal lockdown curbs
Israeli officials hope to let non-essential shops, gyms and libraries reopen within a fortnight.
But ministers will only give the move the green light on February 23 if 90 per cent of over-50s have been vaccinated and at least a third of the country have had their booster dose. Infection rates must also continue to plummet.
Under the same lockdown-easing plan, pubs, cafes and restaurants won’t be allowed to welcome customers again until March 9 — by which time 95 per cent of over-50s must have been jabbed. Four million Israelis — roughly 45 per cent of the country — will also need to have had their top-up jab.
Were Number 10 to follow Israel’s model, non-essential shops wouldn’t reopen until late May because of how long it would take to vaccinate the 17million Britons aged 50-70 who are next on the NHS priority list. Pubs, restaurants and hotels would have to wait until early June.
Schools could start from roughly the middle of May, as per the Israeli system which requires 70 per cent of over-50s to be fully vaccinated before kids go back to class. But the Prime Minister has pledged to reopen schools from March 8.
These dates for the UK are borne out in modelling by the University of Warwick which was passed to Sage a few weeks ago.
It argued that the best way for Britain to prevent another surge in Covid deaths was to keep the national lockdown going until the end of May and then recommence the social distancing rules in September until the end of 2021.
SAGE doomsters push back on easing lockdown any time soon
Coronavirus infections must plummet to fewer than 10,000 cases before Boris Johnson should start easing brutal lockdown restrictions — and Britons may need to wear masks ‘forever’, No10’s top scientific advisers have warned.
Pushing back against growing calls for Britain to be released from draconian curbs soon, Sir Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust and member of SAGE, said there were still 750,000 cases in England — 75 times more than he says they should be. For comparison, the figure — the estimated number of people who would test positive on any given day — never dipped below the 14,000 mark during the summer.
‘Transmission is still incredibly high in the UK,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘If transmission were still at this level and we were not in lockdown, we would be going into lockdown. We’ve got to get it lower, we’ve got to get it – in my view – into the single thousands before we can possibly think of lifting restrictions.’
He added it was ‘not sensible’ for ministers to set a date for lifting any restrictions, warning they must be led by the evidence in order to avoid a third major spike in infections.
In a further blow to hopes measures could be relaxed by the summer, fellow SAGE expert Professor John Edmunds warned most curbs on daily life — which could include the Rule of Six — are likely to be in force until the end of this year, while less restrictive curbs — like face mask wearing on public transport and indoors — could possibly be in place ‘forever’.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine epidemiologist issued the stark warning as he suggested a variant of the virus detected in Bristol had the ‘potential’ to reinfect vaccinated Britons. He said it could be ‘very dangerous’ to the UK’s mammoth jab drive if the mutant strain was allowed to spread around the country.
Public Health England has so far found 21 cases, with 14 in Bristol, four in Manchester and three ‘scattered’ across the rest of the UK.