Covid growth rates are slowing in eight of England’s 10 hot-spots ahead of Freedom Day

Covid growth rates are slowing in eight of England’s 10 hotspots ahead of Freedom Day, MailOnline can reveal but experts have warned the rest of the nation could easily catch up and send infections spiralling.

Analysis of Department of Health data shows that the case rates in South Tyneside — the worst affected region in the country with 1376 infections per 100,000 — and County Durham are already dropping.

And even more encouragingly, the rate of infection growth week-on-week has been slowing for weeks in eight of the regions, which also include Sunderland, Middlesborough and Hartlepool.

Experts told MailOnline the data suggests the areas may already be approaching high immunity levels because of the recent increases in cases as well as vaccination.

But they warned that while the slow-down is a positive for those areas after recently seeing surges in hospitalisation — with doctors and nurses in Sunderland told to cancel their holidays yesterday — the worst may yet to come for the majority of the country.

With most Covid restrictions set to be lifted across all of England on Monday, further spikes in infection are expected, with cases already breaching 50,000 yesterday in the UK.

And spiralling cases will lead to even higher levels of people forced to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app after coming into contact with people testing positive.

MailOnline analysis yesterday suggested up to six million people could be told to stay at home every week by the end of July. 

Industry bosses today warned supermarket shelves could be left empty because meat and port workers are being forced to self-isolate. 

MailOnline analysis shows the rate of infection growth week-on-week has been slowing for weeks in eight of the ten worst-hit regions in England, which also include Sunderland, Middlesborough and Newcastle Upon Thyne

MailOnline analysis shows the rate of infection growth week-on-week has been slowing for weeks in eight of the ten worst-hit regions in England, which also include Sunderland, Middlesborough and Newcastle Upon Thyne

MailOnline analysis shows the rate of infection growth week-on-week has been slowing for weeks in eight of the ten worst-hit regions in England, which also include Sunderland, Middlesborough and Newcastle Upon Thyne

How the ‘pingdemic’ will cripple Britain without action: Food shortages, shops forced to close early, bins not emptied for 10 WEEKS and a £4bn hit to the economy 

Britain faces food shortages with shops being closed early and bins not emptied for ten weeks if urgent action is not taken to address the ‘pingdemic’, industry bosses have warned.

The UK economy is expected to be hit by £4billion in losses after it reopens fully on Monday’s ‘Freedom Day’ because workers are being forced to stay at home after being told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app.

Marks and Spencer said it will be forced to reduce its opening hours and because of the sheer number of staff told to remain at home after coming into contact with an infected person. 

Staff shortages at ports and in the meat industry mean supermarket shelves could be left empty, with supply chains badly affected 

And Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary, today claimed the app needs to be changed, adding that a quarter of junior doctors are currently in isolation.

Ministers have said the lifting of restrictions on Monday is likely to push daily infections to more than 100,000, which could force around half a million a day to self-isolate. 

Analysis by MailOnline suggests that in a worst-case scenario around six million adults could be in isolation by the end of the month. 

Britain’s daily infection toll breached 50,000 yesterday for the first time since January. Anyone who tests positive is told to self-isolate and has their contacts traced. 

But because the Bluetooth phone app ‘pings’ all those who have been in close contact with positive cases, the number of people self-isolating at home at any one time is far higher.

Unlike those people contacted by phone, it is not a legal requirement to self-isolate after being pinged by the app. But Downing Street today made it clear it expects people to do so. 

It raises the prospect of the economy grinding to a halt due to a chronic lack of available workers, even after the lockdown is supposed to have ended . 

Business leaders and trade unionists from across all sector of the economy lined up to warn the Government that a major rethink is needed, because the current situation is not sustainable. 

A fifth of all private sector workers are currently having to self-isolate, according to industrial analysis.

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MailOnline’s analysis shows the growth rate is slowing in eight worst affected areas of the country: Hartlepool, Middlesborough, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland, North East Lincolnshire, County Durham and North Tyneside.

Infections are still increasing in all of those other than County Durham and South Tyneside, but at a slower rate, suggesting they may not be far off a peak.

The biggest drop offs was in South Tyneside, which saw week-on-week growth slow from 148 per cent on July 4 to 46.8 per cent on July 11.

But Redcar and Cleveland is still seeing infections grow at increasing rates each day and Newcastle upon Tyne has seen growth remain consistent at around 17 per cent over the four most recent days data is available for.

Professor Martin McKee, an expert European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told MailOnline the data offer a ‘glimmer of optimism’.

He said: ‘There are reasons to have a glimmer of optimism. However, we really need to see the increases reversing. 

‘Until then, I think I will continue to be cautious. And even if we do see some turning around in those areas, we still need to think about the rest of the country.’

The data only goes up to last Sunday, so will not include any surge in cases caused by the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy last weekend.

It is based on cases by specimen date — when someone was actually infected — which is more accurate than reviewing cases by when they are recorded. 

Professor David Livermore, a medical microbiologist at the University of East Anglia, said while areas outside the ten worst affected are likely to see infections rises after ‘Freedom Day’, the top of case curves ‘cannot be far away’.

He told MailOnline: ‘There may well be a final spurt of cases after Freedom Day, particularly as nightclubs open. Critically, though, 90 per cent of people now have antibodies through vaccination or prior infection. 

‘Consequently the top cannot be far away and “letting the virus run” seems to be the least bad option. 

‘It is certainly better than extending restrictions — with all their massive societal costs. That risks displacing the final surge into the winter, when the NHS is under other pressures.

‘What is more, exposure of the vaccinated to circulating virus should strengthen and deepen their immunity. Again, it is best that this happens early lest, as with other coronaviruses, immunity tends to diminish over time.

‘In short, the government should keep its nerve.’ 

Professor Livermore added any self-isolation ‘pings’ caused by a surge in cases after ‘Freedom Day’ serve ‘little or no benefit’.

He said: ‘It is severe illness and hospitalisation that should concern us, together with a watch for any vaccine-evading variants. 

‘Having the virus circulate in a vaccine-protected population should tend to strengthen and deepen immunity — and it’s better that this happens now than in the winter.

‘In these circumstance I don’t believe that the Track and Trace system is serving a useful purpose. It has cost a fortune — £22bn, or about £300 from every man, woman and child — and is now advising huge numbers of people to self-isolate, at huge inconvenience and for little or no benefit. 

‘Such systems have only ever worked well in countries like South Korea and Taiwan, where Covid didn’t become widespread in the first place.’

Industry bosses today warned Britain faces food shortages with shops being closed early and bins not emptied for ten weeks if urgent action is not taken to address the ‘pingdemic’.

The UK economy is expected to be hit by £4billion in losses after it reopens fully on Monday’s ‘Freedom Day’ because workers are being forced to stay at home after being told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app.

Marks and Spencer said it will be forced to reduce its opening hours and because of the sheer number of staff told to remain at home after coming into contact with an infected person. 

Staff shortages at ports and in the meat industry mean supermarket shelves could be left empty, with supply chains badly affected 

SOUTH TYNESIDE: Infections are already falling in South Tyneside, which means its rate of growth is the lowest of all ten areas

SOUTH TYNESIDE: Infections are already falling in South Tyneside, which means its rate of growth is the lowest of all ten areas

SOUTH TYNESIDE: Infections are already falling in South Tyneside, which means its rate of growth is the lowest of all ten areas

NORTH EAST LINCOLNSHIRE: North East Lincolnshire's average case rate has flattened out over the last few days data is available for

NORTH EAST LINCOLNSHIRE: North East Lincolnshire's average case rate has flattened out over the last few days data is available for

NORTH EAST LINCOLNSHIRE: North East Lincolnshire’s average case rate has flattened out over the last few days data is available for

GATESHEAD: Cases are slowing down in Gateshead, with growth rates consistently decreasing each day for the last two weeks

GATESHEAD: Cases are slowing down in Gateshead, with growth rates consistently decreasing each day for the last two weeks

GATESHEAD: Cases are slowing down in Gateshead, with growth rates consistently decreasing each day for the last two weeks

SUNDERLAND: Sunderland's seven-day average for cases has started to flatten out, suggesting it may be near its peak in infections

SUNDERLAND: Sunderland's seven-day average for cases has started to flatten out, suggesting it may be near its peak in infections

SUNDERLAND: Sunderland’s seven-day average for cases has started to flatten out, suggesting it may be near its peak in infections

NORTH EAST TYNESIDE: North East Tyneside's spiralling cases show signs of slowing down

NORTH EAST TYNESIDE: North East Tyneside's spiralling cases show signs of slowing down

NORTH EAST TYNESIDE: North East Tyneside’s spiralling cases show signs of slowing down

COUNTY DURHAM: County Durham appears to be reaching its peak in infections, with the seven-day average beginning to drop already

COUNTY DURHAM: County Durham appears to be reaching its peak in infections, with the seven-day average beginning to drop already

COUNTY DURHAM: County Durham appears to be reaching its peak in infections, with the seven-day average beginning to drop already

MIDDLESBOROUGH: Middlesborough's cases are continuing to increase but the growth rate has slowed from 165 per cent on July 4 to 112 per cent on July 11

MIDDLESBOROUGH: Middlesborough's cases are continuing to increase but the growth rate has slowed from 165 per cent on July 4 to 112 per cent on July 11

MIDDLESBOROUGH: Middlesborough’s cases are continuing to increase but the growth rate has slowed from 165 per cent on July 4 to 112 per cent on July 11

HARTLEPOOL: Hartlepool's surge in cases is slowing, with the growth rate dropping to 74.9 per cent on July 11, down from 141 per cent a week before

HARTLEPOOL: Hartlepool's surge in cases is slowing, with the growth rate dropping to 74.9 per cent on July 11, down from 141 per cent a week before

HARTLEPOOL: Hartlepool’s surge in cases is slowing, with the growth rate dropping to 74.9 per cent on July 11, down from 141 per cent a week before

REDCAR AND CLEVELAND: Redcar and Cleveland is the only area in the top ten worst affected in the country to be seeing cases rise at an increasing rate

REDCAR AND CLEVELAND: Redcar and Cleveland is the only area in the top ten worst affected in the country to be seeing cases rise at an increasing rate

REDCAR AND CLEVELAND: Redcar and Cleveland is the only area in the top ten worst affected in the country to be seeing cases rise at an increasing rate

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE: Newcastle's growth rate kicked back up in the most recent days data is available for

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE: Newcastle's growth rate kicked back up in the most recent days data is available for

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE: Newcastle’s growth rate kicked back up in the most recent days data is available for

In a more positive sign, SAGE today estimated England's R rate is between 1.2 and 1.4, down from last week's figure of between 1.2 and 1.5

In a more positive sign, SAGE today estimated England's R rate is between 1.2 and 1.4, down from last week's figure of between 1.2 and 1.5

In a more positive sign, SAGE today estimated England’s R rate is between 1.2 and 1.4, down from last week’s figure of between 1.2 and 1.5

Four fifths of NHS hospitals in England are now seeing a spike in Covid patients being admitted, official data has shown as the third wave of the pandemic continues to take its toll ahead of 'Freedom Day' on Monday

Four fifths of NHS hospitals in England are now seeing a spike in Covid patients being admitted, official data has shown as the third wave of the pandemic continues to take its toll ahead of 'Freedom Day' on Monday

Four fifths of NHS hospitals in England are now seeing a spike in Covid patients being admitted, official data has shown as the third wave of the pandemic continues to take its toll ahead of ‘Freedom Day’ on Monday

Up to 1million people were asked to self-isolate last week, data suggests. But that figure could hit 5.6million by the end of the month, if cases spiral by 75 per cent every week (right), according to MailOnline analysis. Separate projections based on a growth rate of 40 per cent - similar to what Test and Trace reported last week - still says the number of people self-isolating could hit 3million a week. But the true figure will be much lower because many people who are told to self-isolate end up testing positive, and some people will be flagged down by both NHS Test and Trace and the app

Up to 1million people were asked to self-isolate last week, data suggests. But that figure could hit 5.6million by the end of the month, if cases spiral by 75 per cent every week (right), according to MailOnline analysis. Separate projections based on a growth rate of 40 per cent - similar to what Test and Trace reported last week - still says the number of people self-isolating could hit 3million a week. But the true figure will be much lower because many people who are told to self-isolate end up testing positive, and some people will be flagged down by both NHS Test and Trace and the app

Up to 1million people were asked to self-isolate last week, data suggests. But that figure could hit 5.6million by the end of the month, if cases spiral by 75 per cent every week (right), according to MailOnline analysis. Separate projections based on a growth rate of 40 per cent – similar to what Test and Trace reported last week – still says the number of people self-isolating could hit 3million a week. But the true figure will be much lower because many people who are told to self-isolate end up testing positive, and some people will be flagged down by both NHS Test and Trace and the app

Around 1.8million people were asked to self-isolate last week in England, data suggests. That includes 194,000 people who tested positive, 520,000 who were 'pinged' by the app, almost 340,000 who were contacted directly by Test and Trace, and 750,000 schoolchildren

Around 1.8million people were asked to self-isolate last week in England, data suggests. That includes 194,000 people who tested positive, 520,000 who were 'pinged' by the app, almost 340,000 who were contacted directly by Test and Trace, and 750,000 schoolchildren

Around 1.8million people were asked to self-isolate last week in England, data suggests. That includes 194,000 people who tested positive, 520,000 who were ‘pinged’ by the app, almost 340,000 who were contacted directly by Test and Trace, and 750,000 schoolchildren 

And Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary, today claimed the app needs to be changed, adding that a quarter of junior doctors are currently in isolation.

Ministers have said the lifting of restrictions on Monday is likely to push daily infections to more than 100,000, which could force around half a million a day to self-isolate. 

Analysis by MailOnline suggests that in a worst-case scenario around six million adults could be in isolation by the end of the month. 

Why it’s NOT illegal to ignore being ‘pinged’

MailOnline has looked into the legal guidance behind whether someone has to self-isolate if they are Covid positive, or told to by the app or Test and Trace. 

Do I have to self-isolate if I get ‘pinged’ by the app?

App users who are ‘pinged’ after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive are not obliged to stay at home.

They are kept anonymous through the app, meaning authorities are unable to track them down if they have been told to quarantine.  

Professor Lilian Edwards, a top lawyer who advised the Government on the app, said today people do not have to follow notifications from the software.

‘I think what’s getting lost in the traffic here is that you are not breaking the law if you do not self-isolate having been pinged by the app,’ she told the BBC’s World at One.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 says people alerted by the app do not have to self-isolate (bolded in red)

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 says people alerted by the app do not have to self-isolate (bolded in red)

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 says people alerted by the app do not have to self-isolate (bolded in red)

‘You are only breaking the law if you are rung up by a manual contact tracer.

‘Therefore, there is room there for discretion both from managers in the workplace and from workers as to whether they think they are a risk.’

However, the instruction becomes legally enforceable as soon as someone who is pinged attempts to apply for the Government’s isolation support payments. 

Do I have to self-isolate if test and trace contacts me?

People contacted by NHS Test and Trace workers do have to self-isolate under regulations brought in last autumn to tackle coronavirus or face hefty fines. 

That rule won’t be dropped for fully vaccinated adults until August 16. 

Britons who are contacted by test and trace must self-isolate at home for ten days. They must isolate for ten days regardless of whether they have symptoms or get a negative test.

People they live with will also be required to self-isolate for ten days. 

Do I have to self-isolate if I test positive?

People who have received a positive test must isolate for ten days after displaying symptoms or their test date if they do not have symptoms, while members of their household must isolate for 14 days  

Britons found breaking these rules could face a fine of £1,000 for the first offence.

This rises to £10,000 for people who repeatedly refuse to self-isolate after testing positive. 

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Business leaders and trade unionists from across all sector of the economy lined up to warn the Government that a major rethink is needed, because the current situation is not sustainable. 

A fifth of all private sector workers are currently having to self-isolate, according to industrial analysis.

Chief executive of Marks & Spencer Steve Rowe said the swathes of staff being forced to self-isolate meant shops will have to reduce opening hours. 

Mr Rowe warned it was a ‘major issue across every industry at the moment’.

He told The Times: ‘Our Covid cases are roughly doubling every week and the pinging level is about three to one of Covid cases, so we’re seeing that growing exponentially.’ 

Mr Rowe said he expects the number of people in isolation across retail to reach 20 per cent by mid-August 

‘If there’s shortages we’ll have to manage it by changing hours of stores, reducing hours,’ he said

‘Where the industry will see the pain is in the supply chain, because logistics runs tight anyway to be efficient.’  

Chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group Tim Morris said the ‘pingdemic’ is the most ‘significant threat to ports’ resilience we have seen yet’.

He suggested people being forced to stay at home could lead to food supply chains being at risk.

Mr Morris told the Daily Telegraph: ‘If the current trajectory of absences continues without the Government taking any action, there has to be a risk of disruption to important supply chains, including food.’

Meanwhile, meat workers are in talks with the government about emergency exemptions for their workers who are pinged by the app — but as of this afternoon no deal had been announced. 

They say one in 10 of their workforce are being told to self-isolate by the app, in a development that could require firms ‘to start shutting down production lines altogether’. 

Meat industry leaders who met officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) yesterday said they were told pinged staff can return to work if they take a test.

No 10 did not rule out extending the exemption to other industries amid warnings that rising infections could lead to shortages of some supermarket products.

The claimed exemption for the meat industry is likely to throw the system into chaos as other struggling sectors, such as car manufacturers, hospitality firms and retailers, demand the same rule change.

Nick Allen, of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), said: ‘The app very clearly says you should self-isolate but the advice we’ve now been given is when our staff get pinged, the first thing to do is get them tested. Officials pointed out to us that the pinging by the app is advisory.’

Responding to the BMPA’s comments, a Government spokesman said: ‘This is not accurate. We are in close contact with businesses, including the food industry, on this matter. 

‘Isolation is a crucial tool in helping to reduce the spread of the virus and it is vital that people continue to self-isolate when contacted by NHS Test and Trace.’

A spokesman for Boris Johnson said: ‘We are continuing to look at self-isolation requirements for NHS workers. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals industry by industry.

‘We keep looking at the scientific evidence and data and it continues to be the case that if you are asked to self-isolate, you should do so.’

And Mr Hunt, chair of the Health and Social Care Committee today said the app is ‘beginning to lose social consent’ and needs to be ‘reformed very quickly’.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Some hospitals are now saying that a quarter of their junior doctors are now having to self-isolate after being ‘pinged’.

‘So I certainly think we should remove the requirement for clinical staff in the NHS to isolate if they have had a negative PCR test.

‘The risk with that app is that it is beginning to lose social consent and so we should either make it less sensitive or move to a system where you have to get a test when you’re pinged.

‘The risk is if people are deleting the app, then you can’t even ping them to ask them to have a test because you can’t contact them at all, so I do think that system needs to be reformed very quickly. 

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