UK-wide daily coronavirus cases rise 40% from last week to 20,694

Britain’s daily coronavirus cases spiked by 40 per cent today as health chiefs recorded another 20,694 infections in the last 24 hours and 516 deaths.

Department of Health figures show the seven-day average number of daily infections has risen to 16,197, the highest number since November 28, when England was in full lockdown.

Today’s 20,694 new cases are up 39 per cent on last Thursday’s 14,879 and 28 per cent higher than the 16,578 figure yesterday.

Daily cases plummeted in size over the fortnight that started November 10 as England’s national lockdown successfully squashed the epidemic. But the UK’s curve began to flatten roughly a week before the draconian restrictions were lifted, suggesting Britons grew tired of the policies before they were forced into the toughened three-tier scheme.

The 516 victims announced today mark a 19 per cent increase on the number of deaths recorded a week ago but a 3 per cent decrease on the 533 yesterday.

Britain is now recording on average 414 Covid fatalities each day, having come down from a six-month high of 487 on November 28.  

It comes as separate data suggested parts of the Midlands and the North of England could see themselves released from Tier Three lockdown rules next week as their infection rates plummeted by nearly half in a week.

A shake-up of the current Tier system is due to happen on December 16, when infection, hospital and death rates will be reviewed to decide whether to tighten or loosen curbs across the country.

London looks headed for Tier Three, while the rates of positive tests have also surged in Berkshire, Essex, East Sussex and Bath at the start of this month. 

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced mass coronavirus testing will be rolled out in secondary schools in the worst-hit boroughs of London amid fears teenagers are fuelling the capital’s surge of infections. 

Number 10 will deploy rapid lateral flow tests which give a result within half an hour to secondary schools in the seven boroughs with the highest infections rates in a bid to curb spiralling cases and prevent the capital from being plunged into a Tier 3 lockdown.

Could parts of the Midlands and North be RELEASED from Tier Three BEFORE Christmas? 

Parts of the Midlands and the North of England could see themselves released from Tier Three lockdown rules next week as their infection rates dropped by as much as 45 per cent in the first week of December.

Cases fell by nearly half in Gateshead, for example, and by a third or more in Newcastle, North East Lincolnshire and Dudley – all of which were put into the toughest local rules when national lockdown finished on December 2. 

Numerous areas across the Midlands and the North saw infection rates fall under the toughest Tier Three rules, while cases in the South – given more lax restrictions – have surged again.

London looks headed for Tier Three, while the rates of positive tests have also surged in Berkshire, Essex, East Sussex and Bath at the start of this month.  

A shake-up of the current Tier system is due to happen on December 16, when infection, hospital and death rates will be reviewed to decide whether to tighten or loosen curbs across the country.   

Figures show infections are rising in London and two other regions of the country — in the South East, where it increased from 142.2 to 160.8 and East, where it rose from 116.2 to 147.2. 

All other regions of England recorded a week-on-week fall, with the South West reporting the lowest rate of 77.3 per 100,000, down from 91.2.

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Although he did not name which boroughs would be involved in the scheme, Government data shows Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Newham, Bexley and Tower Hamlets, are recording the highest number of cases of the disease.

Schools in parts of Essex and Kent will also be involved in the programme amid concerns youngsters are driving the epidemics there. Mr Hancock said the tests would be rolled out ‘immediately’, but he did not give a specific date. Mr Hancock said more detail will be set out tomorrow.

The Health Secretary also did not mention how often children will be swabbed and how many pupils it will affect. But London’s seven hotspot boroughs are home to 640,000 children aged between 11 and 18, according to Office for National Statistics 2019 population estimates. 

Tier 2 London was today named Britain’s Covid-19 hotspot after official data showed it had the highest case rate of anywhere in the country, surpassing Tier 3 areas in northern parts of the country. Infections have been spiking among children aged 10 to 18 in the capital at a much higher rate than any other age groups.

Mr Hancock told a Downing Street press conference this evening: ‘We have decided to put in place an immediate plan for testing all secondary school age children in the seven worst affected boroughs of London, in parts of Essex that border London and parts of Kent.

‘We want to keep schools open because that’s both right for education and for public health. We are therefore securing mobile testing units and will be working with schools and local authorities to encourage these children and families to get tested in the coming days.

‘We know from experience that a sharp rise in cases in younger people can lead to a rise amongst more vulnerable age groups later. We’ve seen that happen before. So we need to do everything we can to stop the spread amongst school age children in London.’

Mr Hancock added: ‘I want to urge all those involved to step forward for the testing. It’s important that 11-18 year olds get tested in these boroughs irrespective of if they have symptoms.

‘One in three people with Covid have no symptoms at all, but can still pass it on to others and I know that nobody wants to be responsible for endangering those around them so I urge everyone involved to get a test.’

Citing the successful mass testing programme in Liverpool, the Health Secretary added: ‘We know that community testing can work and it requires a collective spirit of determination and resilience and of people coming together to do the right thing, something I have confidence that everybody involved will find in the days to come.’

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