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Coronavirus UK: 1,940 cases confirmed by Government

Britain today confirmed another 1,940 cases of coronavirus in the biggest surge for more than three months, with May 30 the last time so many people were diagnosed with the virus. 

There are 1,530 people testing positive, on average, each day – a jump of 30 per cent in one week. The seven-day rolling average has been steadily increasing since reaching record-low numbers in mid-July.  

A further 10 people are confirmed to have died across all settings, according to the Department of Health, taking the total to 41,537. These are all expected to be in England, considering none were reported by the individual health agencies of Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland. 

It comes as Government scientists warned the Covid-19 reproduction rate was still likely above one right across the UK, an indication the virus is able to spread uncontrollably.  

The R – the average number of people each virus patient infects – needs to stay below one or the virus could start to grow exponentially. But SAGE estimates it is still hovering between 0.9 and 1.1, having remained unchanged from last week. However, the UK’s low infection rate means small outbreaks can skew the estimate upwards.

SAGE also predicts that Britain’s outbreak is now growing by up to two per cent per day, after being in retreat for months following lockdown.  

But other official data published today from swabbing thousands of random people across England suggests the number of people catching the coronavirus each day is at a steady level, and has been since July.   

Some 27,100 people in England are thought to be infected at any one time – 0.05 per cent of the population or one in every 2,000 people – according to the Office for National Statistics, which said today: ‘Evidence suggests that the incidence rate for England remains unchanged.’

In other coronavirus developments today:

  • There was outrage as British holidaymakers fleeing Portugal pay nearly £1,000 to fly home to beat quarantine – only for ministers to KEEP the country on its safe travel list; 
  • Germany has nearly DOUBLED its testing rate to screen thousands of returning air passengers – as Britain continues to hold out against airport checks;
  • Is Boris’s back-to-work drive starting to work? 57% of employees say they travelled to the office in past seven days with many balancing WFH with commuting – a rise from 49% the week before;
  • Grant Shapps accuses Scotland and Wales of ‘jumping the gun’ by putting Portugal on quarantine list and blames THEM for mass confusion among holidaymakers;
  • Russia’s Covid vaccine might actually WORK: Moscow scientists claim ‘Sputnik V’ jab that stunned scientists when Putin gave it world-first approval proved safe and effective in early clinical trials. 

The 1,940 cases diagnosed today is the highest since Saturday, May 30, when 2,445 people tested positive for the disease. But it’s nowhere near the rates seen at the height of the pandemic, when more than 5,000 were being diagnosed every day.

The figure given by the Department of Health each day is in relation to the number of people who have been given a positive test result. Most scientists say the rise in recent weeks is not a concern because it is the result of more testing in hotspots.

And on top of that, the first ‘wave’ is not considered to be over, and is likely to see bumps as the coronavirus fizzles out in response to easing of lockdown restrictions. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today efforts to control the coronavirus were working. But nevertheless, he added: ‘I would urge everybody to continue to be vigilant – wash your hands, wear a face covering and keep social distance from those outside your household – so we can keep the virus at bay.’  

Experts think the UK’s growth rate –  how the number of new cases is changing day-by-day – is between -1% and +2%.

Like the R rate, the growth rate is a tool to keep track of the virus. If it is greater than zero, and therefore positive, then the disease will grow, and if the growth rate is less than zero, then the disease will shrink. 

The value is shown as a range, so the true growth rate is likely somewhere between -1% and 2%, meaning it is almost definitely positive. 

And in a repeat of last week’s statistics, SAGE confirmed that every region of the UK could have an R rate at or above 1. The Government’s scientists said it had for weeks ‘been seeing indications that these values are increasing’.

But they warned that when transmission is as low as it currently is in the UK – a 1,000 people are being diagnosed every day – the R and growth rate are more volatile. This means it can be skewed upwards by local clusters of infections.

And because of a lag in the time it takes for patients to fall ill with Covid-19 and appear in the statistics, SAGE says its data is still about three weeks behind and does not accurately reflect the current trajectory of the outbreak.

HOW HAS THE R RATE CHANGED IN THE UK?

AREA

ENGLAND  

UK

EAST 

LONDON

MIDLANDS

NORTH EAST 

NORTH WEST

SOUTH EAST

SOUTH WEST 

THIS WEEK

0.9 – 1.0 

0.9 – 1.1 

— 

0.8 – 1.0 

0.9 – 1.1 

0.8 – 1.0 

0.8 – 1.0 

0.8 – 1.0 

0.8 – 1.0 

0.8 – 1.1 

LAST WEEK 

0.9 – 1.1 

0.9 – 1.1 

 

0.8 – 1.0 

0.9 – 1.1 

0.8 – 1.1 

0.8 – 1.0 

0.9 – 1.1 

0.9 – 1.1 

0.9 – 1.1 

HOW HAS THE GROWTH RATE CHANGED? 

AREA

ENGLAND 

UK

EAST 

LONDON

MIDLANDS

NORTH EAST 

NORTH WEST

SOUTH EAST

SOUTH WEST 

THIS WEEK 

 -2% to +1%

-1% to +2%

  — 

-5% to 0%

-3% to +2% 

 -6% to 0%

 -3% to 0%

-3% to 0%

-4% to +1%

-4% to +1% 

LAST WEEK   

-2% to +1% 

-2% to +1% 

— 

-3% to 0% 

-2% to +1% 

-3% to +1% 

-3% to +1% 

-3% to +1% 

-2% to +1% 

-2% to +2% 

The R and growth rate are being driven up by an increase in positive cases in the UK, with more than a thousand people testing positive every day.

But scientists have shot down claims of a ‘second wave’, saying the increased infections are merely signs of improved testing.

They say the rising figures are simply the result of young, healthy people being picked up on official figures. Previously, they were being missed because tests were reserved for the sickest people. 

The SAGE report published today showed that for England as a whole the R had come down slightly, from 0.9 and 1.1 last week to 0.9 and 1.0 this week.

This was helped by the fact four regions in England saw their R shrink slightly – the Midlands, North West, South East and South West. 

Yesterday, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that reproduction rate of north of the border was ‘probably above one’ and could be as high as 1.4 after spikes in Aberdeen and Glasgow.

Nicola Sturgeon said: ‘I said recently that the R number is of slightly less concern when overall prevalence of the virus is low, and overall prevalence of the virus is still low in Scotland right now.

‘But nevertheless this is a reminder that the virus is spreading again here, just as it is elsewhere in the UK, across Europe and indeed in the wider world’. The devolved nations do their own R rate predictions and they are not routinely published. 

It comes as families told of their agony after paying huge prices to get home from Portugal to beat a heavily-hinted new quarantine – only for the restriction to never appear.

Bristol single dad John Cushing said he had to cut his Portugal holiday short beat the quarantine that never happened and get his daughter Georgie, 12, back to school.

He paid £1,000 for flights home on Thursday after seeing reports it could have been added to the list.

He said: ‘My daughter was in tears yesterday at the thought of not being able to go back to school and see her friends.

‘She has already missed most of year seven [at school] and I can’t let her miss the first two weeks of year eight.

‘The airlines have us over a barrel and don’t seem to have any sympathy.’

Manchester Airport saw arrivals from Portugal today

A holiday goer arrives home from Portugal today

Holiday goers arriving back to the UK after Portugal was not added to the UK quarantine list

There has been widespread speculation this week that Portugal could be added to the UK’s quarantine list – but today Grant Shapps has announced there will be no changes 

Jonathan Lake, from Cardiff, who is staying with his wife and two children near Chania, said: ‘It’s the lack of consistent messaging and management across the whole UK Government I’m really angry about now – and the fact they’ve announced it at five o’clock UK time, so 7pm they’ve said “you’ve got until 4am tomorrow to get home”. 

‘I mean, what, am I supposed to charter a private jet to try and get me and my family home?”

Mr Lake and his family are scheduled to fly back to London Gatwick on Tuesday with Tui.

He said: ‘I’m almost at the point where I’m thinking I’m just going to book a Premier Inn or something in Bristol – if it costs me five or six hundred pounds I don’t really care, I can afford it, I’ll do it – and stay there and I’ll just live my life as normal.

‘Because if there’s 196 people on that flight from England they can just go and live their life as normal, but because I live in Wales (Welsh Health Minister) Vaughan Gething has said “screw you, I’m going to make you sit in your house for 14 days”. It’s a joke, an absolute joke.’

Mr Lake, who works in the pharmaceutical industry and says he is working on Covid trials, believes the Government is being heavy-handed in its approach to the virus.

‘I’m more likely to die and kill my whole family in a car crash on the way home from Gatwick Airport than I am of dying from Covid, let alone infect a load of other people,’ he said.

‘It is beyond sense that they are taking this approach and I am so angry at the Welsh government and the whole government at how they’re handling this pandemic because the whole country is being fed a load of rubbish in how this is being done, and I’m fed up with it.’

Kelly Jones, from Birmingham, is at the other end of the spectrum, she paid Jet2 £900 to move her flights home from Faro from Saturday to Friday.

Ms Jones wanted to ensure her three children would not miss out on two weeks of school and was anticipating that quarantine rules were about to be brought in for Portugal given the high rate of infection.

The 45-year-old said the situation was ‘absolutely disgusting’, adding: ‘It’s cost us a lot more money and it’s money we didn’t need to spend now.

‘We’ve lost an extra night in our villa – we won’t get that back – we’ve got a hire car, so we’re taking that back a day early. It’s the knock-on effects as well.’

Wales and Scotland both added Portugal, as well as French Polynesia to their respective quarantine lists today.

The rate of Covid cases in Portugal has been above 20 per 100,000 for the past three days – the level at which the government considers introducing a quarantine. 

Yesterday the number of new cases rose to 390 from 231 the day before, suggesting the current seven-day average of 22.7 will not decrease.  

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