England could be ‘over the edge’ of the third wave of Covid, health commentators say

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Data suggesting England’s Covid outbreak in retreat is ‘very, very promising’, a minister said today as experts claimed the country could already be ‘over the edge’ of the third wave. 

Daily cases plunged to a five-week low yesterday, with England’s infections down to 19,175 — the fewest since June 29 (16,802).  

And hospitalisations — which lag at least a week behind — now also appear to have peaked. Official figures showed 593 admissions were recorded on July 31, the latest day figures are available for, down a quarter from the same time the week before.

Gillian Keegan, No10’s minister for apprenticeships and skills, told LBC today the drop in Covid admissions was another glimmer of hope that the worst part of the third wave had ended weeks earlier than predicted.

But she added: ‘I guess we all look at the data with hope, but we’ve seen how this virus can turn at several points.’

Experts hailed data yesterday that suggested England’s hospitalisations have now peaked, saying deaths would start to decline within the next week.

The former head of health data at the Office for National Statistics, Jamie Jenkins, said England and Wales may be ‘over the hill now when it comes to deaths’. 

Also speaking on LBC, he said: ‘[Cases] in England and Wales have been coming down since July 19.

‘The cases have been falling for a couple of weeks there, then you get that time-lag effect when cases start coming down, around five or six days later you start seeing hospital admissions come down. And then you start seeing deaths come down.

‘I think looking at the data, we normally see deaths peaking around 14 days after cases come down, I think we might start being over the hill now when it comes to deaths.’

Mr Jenkins added: ‘We probably are over the edge of the wave at the moment but let’s have a bit of caution as we go into the autumn period.’

His words echo Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert from the University of East Anglia, who last night claimed it will take ‘another week or so’ for deaths across the UK to fall in line with hospitalisations and cases. 

He said the fall in Covid hospitalisations was yet another sign that the drop in cases was genuine. 

Some experts had said the decline could be down to reduced testing. But the test positivity rate — the proportion of swabs that pick up the virus — has also dropped, suggesting cases really are falling. 

In a sign that fatalities may start to flatten out or even fall within the next week, Covid hospital admissions fell by nearly 20 per cent in England. Some 593 infected patients were admitted for medical treatment on July 31, the most recent day NHS figures are available for. For comparison, 734 patients were hospitalised the previous Saturday

In a sign that fatalities may start to flatten out or even fall within the next week, Covid hospital admissions fell by nearly 20 per cent in England. Some 593 infected patients were admitted for medical treatment on July 31, the most recent day NHS figures are available for. For comparison, 734 patients were hospitalised the previous Saturday

Minister Gillian Keegan told LBC today the drop in hospitalisations looked 'very, very promising'

Jamie Jenkins, the former head of health statistics at the Office for National Statistics, said England and Wales may now be 'over the hill now when it comes to deaths'

Minister Gillian Keegan told LBC today the drop in hospitalisations looked ‘very, very promising’. And Jamie Jenkins, the former head of health statistics at the Office for National Statistics, said England and Wales may now be ‘over the hill now when it comes to deaths’

Despite heralding the fall in cases and hospitalisations, Ms Keegan said ministers would still not be relaxing self-isolation requirements for the double-vaccinated for another two weeks.

She told LBC that ‘obviously, we’ve got many people double-vaccinated’ but warned more Britons would still need to get two jabs. 

Ms Keegan added: ‘[This] is why we’ve got this August 16 date to say everybody get vaccinated and, of course, that gives young people the chance to get double-vaccinated as well but it looks very, very promising.’

Official figures show 46.8million Britons — or 88.6 per cent of adults — have got one dose of the Covid vaccine, and 38.4million — or 72.7 per cent — have got two doses. 

Mr Jenkins said hospital admissions were around 80 per cent lower than what they would have been in the past and deaths were 90 per cent lower.

He added: ‘The vaccine effect has kicked in as well — if you look at the same number of cases to what we had in the winter, it would have been 800 deaths rather than 65-70.’ 

Nicola Sturgeon will announce today when most of Scotland’s remaining Covid restrictions on social distancing and WFH rule will be lifted 

Nicola Sturgeon is set to announce if Scotland will lift its coronavirus restrictions and move beyond the current Level 0 rules in place.

Her statement this afternoon will say whether or not most measures implemented north of the border as a result of the pandemic are to be lifted on Monday August 9 as hoped.

The Scottish First Minister set the date in June, even before the move to Level 0 on July 19 which increased the numbers of people who could gather and extended the opening hours of hospitality.

Other businesses such as soft play were finally allowed to reopen — however nightclubs are among those still closed ahead of Tuesday’s statement in a virtual session of the Scottish Parliament.

Sports stadia and concert venues may go back to being able to welcome full capacity crowds again for the first time in nearly 18 months if changes are approved.

It was previously suggested all the major Covid-19 restrictions would be relaxed on Monday as long as the over-40 age group is fully vaccinated, which the Scottish Government described as a ‘gateway condition’.

While lifting the restrictions could also bring an end to social distancing, Ms Sturgeon has already confirmed face coverings in shops and public transport will remain mandatory for ‘some time to come’.

Professor Hunter said: ‘We can now see that in England new admissions to hospital have peaked. 

‘It will take another week or so before we see any impact on reported deaths.

‘The fact that hospital admissions are now falling provides further evidence that the decline in cases in the last couple of weeks was real and not due to an artefact from changing testing or people deleting the NHS Covid app as some have suggested.’

Covid cases across Britain were lower yesterday than they have been since June 29, according to the official figures.

But the number of virus tests conducted also fell to their lowest levels since June 26, suggesting there are cases that have not been picked up.  

Some experts think fewer people are coming forward to get swabbed for Covid to avoid having to self-isolate.

But separate analysis shows that test positivity rates have fallen across the board, suggesting the drop in cases is genuine. 

Speaking on Sky News today, SAGE adviser Professor Stephen Reicher, a social psychologist at the University of St Andrews, said ONS data released last week shows ‘the public are behaving responsibly’.

He said: ‘The thing is, the public have always been behaving responsibly. 

‘The remarkable thing when you look at the data is the people have always been ahead of the Government in being aware of the dangers and being cautious.

‘The problem to some extent is the Government is not matching the public with its own responsibilities.

‘So for instance, we should be using the summer to drive down infections and keep infections down through some very simple things.

‘We now know, more than before, how important ventilation is, so we should be installing ventilation in public spaces, in schools, as indeed they are doing in other countries.’

Yesterday’s daily figures also signalled a slow down in the week-on-week drop in infections, with cases plunging by 12 per cent on the figure recorded on Monday last week.

For comparison, the week-on-week drop last Monday stood at 37.5 per cent. 

Meanwhile, there were just 24 deaths yesterday, down from 65 on Sunday — but an increase of 71.4 per cent compared to last Monday.

Covid death figures released on Mondays are often lower than expected because of a delay in recording deaths over the weekend. 

Professor Hunter said the case figures show a ‘continuing decline’ and represent the first day that reflected the reopening on July 19.

He said: ‘As expected, we are not seeing the rapid fall in case numbers that we were seeing last Monday. 

‘Whether we see a continuing decline over coming weeks or see cases plateau is not clear but I doubt we will see further rapid falls or indeed increases over the next month.’

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