Coronavirus outbreaks appear to be slowing in every English regions except the South East, according to official data published today.
MailOnline’s analysis of Public Health England statistics show the biggest slowdowns were in London and the South West, where Covid’s speed of growth halved in the past week.
The figures have bolstered hopes that the Indian variant can be stopped without drastic lockdown measures and that Freedom Day will go ahead as planned.
Experts have hailed the figures, claiming there was now ‘no reason’ for No10 to deviate from its plan scrap all restrictions on July 19. They said the figures for the South East were likely a blip.
Despite infections having seemingly slowed down right across the country, they are still rising in almost nine in ten councils. Top scientists say a spike was inevitable because of the rapid spread of the Indian variant, coupled with the easing of lockdown over the past three months.
Today saw Britain record 16,703 positive tests in the highest daily toll since early February. But officials believe the huge up-tick has been fuelled by a mass testing blitz in Scotland — yet other experts believe Euro 2020 has played a role in the rise.
Deaths — which lag several weeks behind cases — remain flat but are creeping upwards following the explosion of cases throughout June, with 21 victims today compared to 19 last Thursday.
Meanwhile, a symptom-tracking app today claimed the number of people falling ill with Covid in Scotland and the North West has started to plateau, and the UK’s R rate has dipped for the second week in a row. Other promising official data revealed the number of hospitalisations has actually fallen week-on-week.
Despite Covid cases rising across the country, the rate that virus outbreaks are increasing by week-on-week is now dropping in every area of England apart from the South East. Promising data showed the speed of growth dropped from 142.09 per cent to 75.5 percent in the South West. In London, in dropped from 40 per cent to 14.86 per cent. Meanwhile, in the South East it jumped slightly from 28.31 per cent to 34.87 per cent
Infection rates are dropping in certain areas (shown in green), including Bedford, Luton and Bolton. But infection rates are rising the most in Darlington, Derby and Rutland
Public Health England surveillance data published today showed the number of people testing positive for Covid has gone up across all regions of the country and in all age groups. Hospital admissions are also going up across the nation, its report said.
But the rate of infection is slowing overall, according to MailOnline’s analysis of the data.
Only the South East of England saw the speed of growth increase. Some 59.4 people per 100,000 tested positive for Covid in the week up to June 20, up from 44.1 the week before.
This means that the rate of infection jumped by 34.87 per cent, compared to the 28.31 per cent increase the week before.
The figures show that the North West — home to Indian variant hotspots Bolton and Blackburn — had the highest proportion of people testing positive, with 238.9 people per 100,000. But its cases only went up by 19.26 per cent. The week before it saw a 31.74 per cent jump.
Separate data also showed infections are now falling in both Bolton and Blackburn, as well as other areas where the mutant strain is rife, such as Bedford, Luton, Leicester and the London borough of Hounslow.
In the last seven days, new Covid cases have jumped up by 51.7 per cent in the UK and deaths have increase from 18 to 2. As it stands, 43.6million people have had their first dose of the vaccine while 31.9million have had their second. In the seven days leading up to June 20, 204 people went to hospital with the virus, down from 222 one week earlier
Now Jacob Rees-Mogg joins the calls to DITCH masks as soon as restrictions are lifted
Jacob Rees-Mogg today hinted that he believes all coronavirus restrictions should end on the July 19 ‘Freedom Day’ as Boris Johnson faced a Cabinet split on whether to retain rules on wearing face masks.
The Commons Leader was grilled by MPs on whether domestic vaccine passports could be rolled out next month when Mr Johnson is due to press ahead with the final stage in his lockdown exit roadmap.
But referring to Mr Johnson previously describing the date as a ‘terminus’ point, Mr Rees-Mogg said ‘terminus is Paddington not Crewe’ and it should mean the ‘end of the line’ in comments which appeared to support lifting all the remaining draconian curbs.
The remarks came as two other Cabinet ministers said they will ditch face masks the moment they are not compulsory – and suggested that should happen on July 19.
George Eustice dismissed the idea he would keep wearing face coverings when they are not required, saying: ‘I want to get back to normal.’
He also reiterated that the plan is for ‘all legal restrictions’ to lift in England on the so-called Covid ‘Freedom Day’ next month.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak gave a similar message as he said it is his ‘strong expectation’ that the unlocking will go ahead on schedule. Asked at the Times CEO summit if he would stop wearing masks when they are not legally required, Mr Sunak said: ‘Yes, as soon as possible.’
London’s outbreak rose by the slowest pace, up by just 14.86 per cent on the week before.
Coronavirus is most prevalent among teenagers and twenty-somethings, the PHE data also revealed.
Some 267.9 people per 100,000 aged between 20 and 29 had the virus in the week up to June 20, while 217.4 per 100,000 individuals between 10 and 19-years-old also tested positive.
The age groups with the lowest proportion of infections are the over 80s, in another sign vaccines are protecting the elderly from the disease.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline: ‘I can’t see any reason why July 19 shouldn’t be the end of lockdown.
‘We’re getting to that point where we’ve got to let this virus do what it will because it’s going to be here forever.
‘To be honest, I can start imaging why extending it may actually be detrimental. If the virus is going to eventually circulate, you want it to happen while you’ve got a good level of immunity.
He added that by next month we’re probably going to be ‘as protected as we can’, given that 43.7million over-18s have now had their first dose and 31.9million are fully vaccinated.
Separate figures released today by the King’s College London/ZOE symptom-tracking app revealed the number of people falling ill in Scotland was finally plateauing.
Data showed there were 3,716 new symptomatic cases in Scotland every day last week, the equivalent of one in 121 people. This was higher than last week but marks a slowdown in the speed of the outbreak north of the border.
Infection rates in Scotland have been rising faster than the rest of the UK due to outbreaks of the highly infectious Indian variant in the country’s central belt.
Nicola Sturgeon yesterday delayed the latest phase of its loosening for another three weeks and suggested that mask-wearing is likely to continue into the autumn.
The KCL study also found case rates in the North West of England, another hotspot for the Indian ‘Delta’ variant’, were flatlining.
There were 3,984 symptomatic people testing positive every day in the region last week, which is the equivalent of around one in 131. Similar to Scotland, cases are continuing to rise in the region, but at a slower rate, according to the data.
Professor Tim Spector, who runs the country’s largest symptom-tracking study, and his team also believe the UK’s R rate has fallen to 1.1 in the past week, down from 1.2 in the previous seven-day spell.
There were nearly 3,000 new Covid infections in Scotland in the past 24 hours, the largest toll ever in a single day. The figure, up slightly on yesterday’s tally, is more than twice as high as the number Scotland was recording earlier in the week
The data shows case rates are higher in the North West of the country, but MailOnline can reveal that the spread of Covid in the region is slowing down
The graph shows that the proportion of people testing positive for Covid is highest among those aged between 20 and 29 (shown in green). Over-50s are the least likely to test positive for the virus (show in red, pink, light blue and purple)
Case rates per 100,000 are now rising equally in men and women, unlike in the peak of the second wave where infections were more common in women
The UK is now recording 19,122 cases each day, which equates to 1 in 264 people, according to the ZOE Covid symptom study. The data shows that around 15,099 of these cases are in unvaccinated people, while 4,023 are in people who have had the vaccine
Professor Spector and his team believe the UK’s R rate has fallen to 1.1 in the past week, down from 1.2 – the lowest it has been since the third wave started in April
Now Macron says ‘non’ to British tourists
France and Germany launched a joint push to make Britons quarantine on arrival in the EU today despite Boris Johnson hailing the ‘real opportunity’ of opening travel to double-jabbed holidaymakers.
The bid to tighten the bloc’s defences against the Indian – or Delta – variant emerged as the UK prepares to add the Balearics and Malta to the ‘green list’ list of destinations where people do not have to self-isolate on return.
Game-changing plans to drop ‘amber list’ restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated are also being considered by ministers this afternoon, and could potentially come into effect as early as next month.
However, even if the rules are loosened it will be of limited use as Britons still face tough curbs imposed by other countries – who are alarmed at the spike in infections caused by the Indian, or Delta, variant.
Angela Merkel urged all EU states to follow Germany’s lead by requiring travellers from the UK to quarantine.
‘I will lobby for a more co-ordinated approach, particularly with regard to entries from regions where virus variants abound,’ she said at a summit in Brussels today.
French president Emmanuel Macron echoed her hard line, saying: ‘We must all be vigilant because the much-talked-about Delta variant is coming, which spreads much more rapidly than the other variants and affects people who are not vaccinated or who only have had one dose.
‘For me, one of the issues of discussion is to be really taking co-ordinated decisions in terms of opening of borders to third countries and on recognising vaccines because at this stage we have to limit this to the vaccines that have been approved by the European medical authority.’
Environment Secretary George Eustice condemned the Franco-German stance. ‘I’m not sure that such an approach would be justified given the highly advanced stage we are currently at now in terms of vaccination, with 80 per cent having had one jab and now 60 per cent having had the second jab,’ he told LBC radio.
‘I don’t think such a move would be justified but obviously it’s for individual countries to make these judgments.’
On a visit to Aldershot, Mr Johnson dodged directly criticising Mrs Merkel’s comments.
Despite the promising data, Professor Spector claimed infections are rising in Cornwall because of the thousands of Britons who have flocked to the coast for a staycation over half-term.
He called for holidaymakers to stay vigilant when enjoying staycations this summer to ensure outbreaks are kept under control.
Latest Government figures show that 147.8 people per 100,000 tested positive for the virus in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in the week leading up to June 18 — up from 60.7 in the previous seven-day spell.
Professor Spector said Cornwall’s climbing infection rates may also be due to the three-day G7 summit earlier this month, which saw crowds gather to welcome the leaders of world’s richest nations.
The epidemiologist said: ‘Data this week shows rates in former hotspots, such as Scotland and the North West of England, continuing to plateau.
‘At the same time, top UK holiday destinations like Cornwall are emerging as new areas with rapidly increasing cases.
‘I think this is down to a number of factors, including the sudden influx of holidaymakers over half term, as well as the recent G7 summit and a previously unexposed local population.
‘We need to remain vigilant of these UK holiday destinations as summer holidays approach, and ensure that we minimise outbreaks by following government guidelines.’
It comes as scientists have suggested a spike in Covid cases in Scotland may be the result of tens of thousands of fans travelling to England to watch the crunch Euro 2020 tie at Wembley.
There were nearly 3,000 new Covid infections in Scotland in the past 24 hours, the largest toll ever in a single day. The figure, up slightly on yesterday’s tally, is more than twice as high as the number Scotland was recording earlier in the week.
The rapid rise in cases has been blamed by officials in England and Scotland on a massive testing blitz, and not a sudden outbreak. However, there has been a steady increase in infections north of the border since the start of June, which was already speeding up before the mass swabbing scheme.
Two-thirds of infections in the 15 to 44 age range are now men, data from the Scottish Government’s own Covid dashboard show, which has led experts to believe the rise is linked closely to the football tournament.
It’s thought that about 30,000 mostly male members of the Tartan Army travelled to London to watch last Friday’s game against the Auld Enemy, despite only 3,000 having tickets to the match.
Footage during the build up to the tie showed huge, non-socially distanced crowds of Scotland fans singing and dancing outside London’s landmarks and in and around pubs in the capital.
Behavioral expert Professor Stephen Reicher, who advises the UK and Scottish Government on Covid, suggested Scots meeting up with friends and family to watch the national team will have also contributed to the rise.
Until they were knocked out, there had been a swell of support for the Scottish football team after qualifying for the country’s first major tournament in 23 years.
The researchers estimate that there are currently 15,099 new symptomatic cases of Covid in unvaccinated people in the UK, compared to 4,023 in vaccinated. This gives a total of 19,122 new cases every day
Data from the ZOE study shows that cases are continuing to rise across the country, but the number of new cases in Scotland (brown line) and the North West (purple line) show that cases are beginning to even out
The researchers also found that cases are proportionately at the highest among those aged between 20 and 29, with over 1,100 people per 100,000 testing positive (orange line). This is followed by those aged under 19, where around 500 individuals per 100,000 testing positive (blue line)
Scotland reported 2,999 new coronavirus cases today, making it the highest total ever in a single day. It was up slightly on the 2,969 recorded yesterday and double the number on Tuesday. Scientists say the rise may be partly because of tens of thousands of fans travelled to England to watch the crunch Euro 2020 tie
Officials say the spike in cases is a result of a mass testing blitz in Scotland to snuff out the Indian variant. Despite the scaling up of swabs, roughly 8 per cent of tests came back positive in the last 24 hours, which was in line with the rise since the start of June
Two-thirds of infections in the 15 to 44 age range are now men, which has led experts like Professor Stephen Reicher (right) to believe the rise is linked closely to Euro 2020
Fans seized the opportunity to jump into the fountain in Leicester Square and take off their shirts as they sprayed water over each other. Footage from after the game showed members of the Tartan Army chanting at the statue: ‘You’re just a s**** Rabbie Burns’, in reference to the Scottish poet Robert Burns
The data shows that people who have not had the vaccine are most likely to catch the virus (red line), while those who have had both doses are the most protected (orange line)