Britain records 29,612 positive tests in just a 1% weekly rise

Britain’s daily Covid cases may already be flattening off, with official figures suggesting the uptick in infections over the past week was merely a blip.

Department of Health bosses today posted another 29,612 positive tests, up just 1 per cent on last week’s figure (29,312). The rolling seven-day average — a more accurate barometer because day-to-day counts can fluctuate heavily — has also fallen for the first time since the end of July.

Scientists remain confused by the true state of the UK’s third wave, which began to shrink naturally in mid-July before seemingly picking up pace again last week. 

Meanwhile, data also hinted deaths may be close to peaking. Some 104 victims were added to the Government’s official toll today, down 12.6 per cent on last week (119). 

Fatalities always lag behind cases by several weeks because of how long it can take between getting infected and becoming seriously ill. 

Covid hospitalisation figures are also delayed for the same reason, however they have already dipped and now appear to be creeping upwards in line with the recent increase in cases. 

Another 712 coronavirus-infected patients needed NHS treatment on August 7, the most recent day statistics are available for. This was 6.6 per cent up on the week before.  

The figures come after one of the Government’s top scientific advisers claimed blanket lockdowns can no longer be justified as a way to control Covid as Britain moves towards living with the virus.

Professor Andrew Hayward, a University College London epidemiologist and SAGE member, said future restrictions to control outbreaks should ‘target the most vulnerable’, rather than involving disruptive restrictions imposed on everyone.

Covid restrictions came to an end in England last month and were eased in Scotland and Wales in the last few days, bringing an end social distancing laws and other rules.

No10’s vaccine advisory panel made U-turn to recommend Covid jabs for 16 and 17 year olds because doctors were seeing more infected children getting seriously ill, expert claims 

The panel advising the Government on Covid vaccine policy U-turned to allow over-16s to have a jab because of a rise in the number of infected children getting seriously ill, one of the experts claimed today.

Ministers announced the rollout would be extended to 16- and 17-year-olds last week, after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) changed its tune on the policy.

Previously, health chiefs were against inoculating teenagers amid fears over myocarditis — a rare heart condition being linked to Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines.

But Professor Adam Finn, who sits on the JCVI, said the number of serious cases among young people in recent weeks merited a change in approach.

NHS data shows around 20 Covid-infected children aged between six and 17 are being admitted to hospital every day currently.

For comparison, the rate was in single figures until the start of July, when the third wave began to spiral rapidly. There were two days in May where no youngsters were hospitalised.

The tiny numbers of children who become seriously ill is the main argument used by critics of No10’s decision to expand the roll-out to youngsters.

Data also suggests around one in 15,000 teenage boys given Pfizer’s jab will develop myocarditis — which can lead to heart failure.

It has raised concerns about the risk-benefit ratio for children, especially boys, who may be up to 14 times more likely to be struck down with the complication.

But other scientists agree with the UK’s move to vaccinate children, saying cases of the condition appear to usually be mild.

Any increase in prevalence tips the risk-benefit balance in favour of jabs because the dangers posed by Covid are skewed higher.

Professor Finn, a paediatrician at Bristol University, said while most young people will only have the virus in a mild form, the vaccines will be effective at preventing serious cases.

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In other Covid developments today:

  • The panel advising the Government on Covid vaccine policy U-turned to allow over-16s to have a jab because of a rise in the number of infected children getting seriously ill, one of the experts claimed;
  • Covid rates in classrooms were three-and-a-half times higher last autumn than they were this June when the third wave began to spiral, a Government-funded study revealed;
  • Heathrow recorded its highest monthly passenger total of the coronavirus pandemic in July, even though the number of travellers using the airport was still 80 per cent lower than before Covid; 
  • Ministers may ban companies which mislead customers by promising cheap Covid tests, it was claimed after research showed holidaymakers buying travel tests face paying up to five times the amount advertised;
  • Britain has bought another 35million doses of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine for next autumn’s booster jab drive — but the deal will cost in the region of £1billion after the drug giant hiked its prices by a fifth.

Since Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared last month that it was time to learn to live with Covid, experts have hinted at what that may look like.

Yesterday, one of the country’s top coronavirus experts Sir Andrew Pollard said Brits who do not have symptoms should no longer take routine tests.

Sir Andrew, chairman of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told MPs swabs should only be offered if people are unwell to reduce the enormous disruption to daily life from mass testing, tracing and isolation.

And today, Professor Hayward said resorting to population-wide measures to control outbreaks will no longer be acceptable. 

Asked about whether the UK could follow Germany’s move to abolish free tests for asymptomatic people, Professor Hayward told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘I think as we generally move into an endemic rather than pandemic situation the potential harm that a virus can cause at a population level is much less.

‘So you can’t really justify such broad population-wide control measures and we tend to target the control measures more to those who are most vulnerable. 

‘And so I think, not only in testing but in all sorts of forms of control, as we move into a situation where we’re coming to live with this virus forever, then we target the measures to the most vulnerable rather than having the more disruptive measures.’

It comes as Covid infections begin to rise across Britain once again, after cases fell for more than a fortnight. 

Yesterday the UK’s daily case load was 8.4 per cent up on the previous week, with 23,510 people testing positive. 

But deaths and hospitalisations are still a fraction of the numbers seen in previous waves because of the success of the vaccines. 

Professor Hayward’s comments chime with a petition signed by more than 12,000 scientists and 115,000 members of the public in October, which called for an end to blanket lockdown restrictions.

The Great Barrington Declaration said young people should be allowed to return to life as normal while the elderly and most vulnerable are given ‘focused protection’. 

The declaration was written by Dr Martin Kulldorff from Harvard University, Dr Sunetra Gupta at Oxford University and Dr Jay Bhattacharya at Stanford University.  

But No10 resisted the calls at the time, which came before life-savings jabs were available.

Ministers said they could not rely on the assumption that the virus would only ‘rip’ through younger age groups without putting more vulnerable people at risk.

Meanwhile, Sir Andrew, who helped develop the AstraZeneca jab, yesterday told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus there should be a change to the testing regime.

He insisted herd immunity is ‘not a possibility’ because fully vaccinated people can still get infected and instead Britain must establish a strategy for ‘living with Covid’.  

Using lockdowns to control spread of Covid in future won’t be justified and efforts should focus on protecting the most vulnerable, SAGE adviser says 

Blanket lockdowns can no longer be justified as a way to control Covid as Britain moves towards living with the virus, one of the Government’s top scientific advisers said today.

Professor Andrew Hayward, a University College London epidemiologist and SAGE member, said future restrictions to control outbreaks should ‘target the most vulnerable’, rather than involving disruptive restrictions imposed on everyone.

Covid restrictions came to an end in England last month and were eased in Scotland and Wales in the last few days, bringing an end social distancing laws and other rules.

Since Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared last month that it was time to learn to live with Covid, experts have hinted at what that may look like.

Yesterday, one of the country’s top coronavirus experts Sir Andrew Pollard said Brits who do not have symptoms should no longer take routine tests.

Sir Andrew, chairman of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told MPs swabs should only be offered if people are unwell to reduce the enormous disruption to daily life from mass testing, tracing and isolation.

And today, Professor Hayward said resorting to population-wide measures to control outbreaks will no longer be acceptable.

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Sir Andrew said: ‘Over time we need to be moving to clinically-driven testing… where it’s people who are unwell who get tested and treated and managed, rather than lots of community testing in people who have very mild disease.’

‘I think this next six months is a really important consolidation phase and in that shift from the epidemic to the endemic, which is the “living with Covid”.’ 

He added: ‘What does that mean in terms of the surveillance that we’re doing, the testing that we’re doing, and also how we should manage patients in hospital or even before hospital in their treatment to try and stop them getting into hospital?

‘I think this next six months is a really important consolidation phase and in that shift from the epidemic to the endemic, which is the ‘living with Covid’.

‘That doesn’t mean that we live with it and put up with it, we still have to manage those cases of patients who become unwell with it.’ 

Meanwhile, it was claimed today that Britain has bought another 35million doses of Pfizer‘s Covid vaccine for next autumn’s booster jab drive.

Whitehall sources told The Times the deal will cost in the region of £1billion, after the drug giant hiked its prices by a fifth in response to demand. 

Ministers already ordered an extra 60million doses for this year’s campaign to give out third doses, which would be enough to give top-ups to all 54million British adults and fully vaccinate the 1.4million 16- and 17-year-olds who are now eligible.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday confirmed preparations were in place for the booster campaign to start next month. 

But experts have repeatedly questioned whether they are even necessary. 

One of No10’s top scientific advisers today claimed top-ups may only be needed for anyone with a weak immune system, such as cancer patients, the elderly and transplant recipients. 

Professor Adam Finn, who sits on the JCVI, said the evidence on whether all over-50s need them remains unclear.

Pfizer has insisted a third dose is necessary and BioNTech — the German firm which produces the vaccine — has said double-jabbed people need a top-up for a ‘robust neutralization response’. 

It comes after a study claimed Moderna’s vaccine is better than Pfizer’s at stopping people getting infected with the Delta variant. 

One expert behind the research, by the US-based Mayo Clinic, argued Moderna’s jab would be better for top-ups. 

Link hienalouca.com

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