UK records 1,730 new Covid cases – down a quarter on last week

UK records 1,730 new Covid cases – down a quarter on last week – as daily deaths drop to seven – taking the total to 127,087 as England prepares to open shops, gyms and pubs tomorrow

  • Today’s case figure of 1,730 marks the lowest daily increase since September 
  • It is a 24.7 per cent drop on the 2,589 cases recorded on this day last week
  • Official figures also show a further seven people have died after testing positive
  • Marks a decrease of 30 per cent on the ten deaths recorded last Sunday

A further 1,730 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the UK today in a drop of a quarter on last week – as England prepares to open shops, gyms and pubs tomorrow.

Today’s case figure marks the lowest daily increase since September – and is a 24.7 per cent drop on the 2,589 recorded on this day last week.

Official figures also show a further seven people have died after testing positive for Covid-19 today – a decrease of 30 per cent on the ten deaths recorded last Sunday. 

Today’s figures take Britain’s total deaths during the pandemic to 127,087, while cases have hit 4,369,775.

The decreasing figures will no-doubt pile pressure on Boris Johnson to accelerate his roadmap out of lockdown plans.

As it stands, six groups – or two households – can meet outside. 

But from Monday, outdoor pubs and restaurants, alongside non-essential shops, are to reopen their doors.

It follows reports that more than 50 per cent of England’s population are in areas where virtually no new Covid cases at all.

Some 4,307 areas – with a total population of 34.5 million – have had so few Covid cases that Public Health England has not published their data for a month to protect the identities of the few people with positive tests.

The neighbourhoods – including parts of Devon and Cornwall – could have had two new cases but likely had none in the week up to April 4.

Meanwhile, 1,091 places – with a population of 8.2 million people – have had no data published since the end of February.

In total, England is seeing 20,000 new cases each week. 

In the worst week of the second wave in January, 380,000 cases were seen weekly – 90 per cent higher than the figure now.

BEFORE: More than 50 per cent of England’s population are in areas where virtually no new Covid cases at all. Pictured: The rolling seven-day average cases on February 23

AFTER: Some 4,307 areas – with a total population of 34.5 million – have had so few Covid cases that Public Health England has not published their data for a month to protect the identities of the few people with positive tests. The neighbourhoods – including parts of Devon and Cornwall – could have had two new cases but likely had none in the week up to April 4. Pictured: The rolling seven-day average cases on April 4

Some 4,307 areas – with a total population of 34.5 million – have had so few Covid cases that Public Health England has not published their data for a month to protect the identities of the few people with positive tests (file image) 

During that week, just six areas out of 6,791 had small enough case totals to mean their data had to be redacted to ensure the anonymity of those affected, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Bampton, Holcombe, Westleigh, Lynton and Combe Martin in Devon and Towednack, Lelant, Carbis Bay, Probus and Roseland in Cornwall have gone ten and nine weeks respectively with no new infections. 

Some 83.3 per cent of the south west is made up of areas with nearly zero cases. The south east has 76.8 per cent and the east of England has 74.5 per cent.

But the drop is not seen nation wide, with 69.5 per cent of Yorkshire and the Humber with high enough cases for their data to be published by Public Health England. 

Unchecked Covid hotspots could lead to a third wave of the virus if the country reopens too quickly, scientists warn (file image)

Warwick medical school’s Professor Lawrence Young told The Observer: ‘We need a properly-funded system for quarantining infected people. We don’t have that and we could head back into trouble again quite quickly.’

The scientists argue that waiting until more people are vaccinated would be a better approach. 

Leeds University medical school Associate Professor Stephen Griffin said there are still ‘far too many virus hotspots and not enough attention being paid to controlling infections that might spread from them’

Figures today revealed that more than 50 per cent of England’s population are in areas where virtually no new Covid cases at all, as Boris Johnson faces calls to lift lockdown quicker.

Some 4,307 areas – with a total population of 34.5 million – have had so few Covid cases that Public Health England has not published their data for a month to protect the identities of the few people with positive tests.

The neighbourhoods – including parts of Devon and Cornwall – could have had two new cases but likely had none in the week up to April 4.

Meanwhile, 1,091 places – with a population of 8.2 million people – have had no data published since the end of February. 

It follows reports that ministers are planning to use vaccine passports as a short-term ‘bridge to freedom’ before full herd immunity is achieved in the autumn.

Under the plans, all Covid-related restrictions would be relaxed as planned under Mr Johnson’s roadmap on June 21 – but with the passports allowing the return of mass public gatherings in the summer.

This would include the return of capacity crowds for the start of the Premier League season in August.

Ministers are planning to use vaccine passports as a short-term ‘bridge to freedom’ before full herd immunity is achieved in the autumn – as plans would include the return of capacity crowds for the start of the Premier League season in August (stock image)

Risk of two fully vaccinated people catching Covid from meeting up indoors is ‘tiny’ at just one in 400,000, scientists say 

Scientists have claimed the risk of two fully vaccinated people catching coronavirus while meeting indoors is ‘tiny’.

Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London, told The Telegraph the chance of catching an infection while indoors with another vaccinated person is one in 400,000.  

His claim comes as the Boris Johnson faces pressure to accelerate his roadmap out of lockdown.  

Latest figures show more than 50 per cent of England’s population are in areas where there are virtually no new Covid cases at all. 

As of Saturday afternoon, 32,010,244 had received the first dose of the vaccination, with a further 6,991,310 having had their second.  

Despite the promising figures, last week Boris Johnson gave a Downing Street press conference, at which he said ‘we see nothing in the present data that makes us think that we will have to deviate from that roadmap’. 

Professor Tim Spector explained the risk of catching a symptomatic infection between two vaccinated people is less than the risk of developing a blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

With more than 20 million Britons receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine so far, there have been 79 cases of rare blood clots – and 19 deaths – linked to the jab.

The figures are equivalent to one in every 250,000 of those vaccinated suffering from a clot – and one in a million dying.

Similarly, the chances of picking five winning numbers in the National Lottery is more likely, with the odds of that happening being one in 144,415.

Spector professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London said: ‘The Prime Minister recently told us that two people who have been fully vaccinated really shouldn’t meet because it wasn’t 100 per cent safe.

‘I want to give it some context. It all depends on how much virus is around in the country and currently with rates of one in 1,400 for someone who has been fully vaccinated, according to our data and the trial data, it suggests they are at a 20th of the normal risk, which means their risk is about one in 28,000.

‘So if they’re meeting someone with equally low risk the chance of those giving to each other are really absolutely tiny.’ 

The ‘Covid status certificates’, which would show whether the bearer had recently tested negative for the disease or had antibodies either through a vaccination or past infection, would be discontinued when a large enough proportion of the community has immunity to coronavirus to halt its spread.

One report last week argued that this herd immunity had already been reached, but cautious Government projections currently put that point at the end of October.

The use of the passports is likely to be restricted to public gatherings such as sporting events or theatre productions, as the logisitics of using them for pubs and restaurants are proving to be formidable.

As one Cabinet Minister says: ‘There may be some benefits. But when you look at the practicalities of implementing it, and the actual utility of implementing the system, it just isn’t worth it.’

Under the Prime Minister’s roadmap, larger outdoor sports venues would be allowed to operate at up to 25 per cent capacity from May 17, with a maximum of 10,000 spectators, while Wembley Stadium will only have a maximum of 50 per cent capacity for the latter stages of the Euro 2020 matches in July. But passports could open the way for full-capacity events.

The Minister said: ‘It may be the choice we’re looking at is the opening day of the Premiership with 20,000 to 30,000 supporters without Covid passports, or starting the season with the passports or some other system with 60,000.

‘It’s obviously still a bit of a moveable feast, but on the current data we think we’ll reach herd immunity some time in October. So the question is, what can we do to manage things like major events in the meantime?’

Meanwhile, a study found that the mutant South African Covid-19 variant can ‘break through’ the Pfizer jab.

Scientists studied 400 people who had tested positive for coronavirus at least 14 days after receiving one or two doses of the jab – and 400 who tested positive with no vaccine. 

The variant was eight times more prevalent in those who had two jabs than none. It was seen in 5.4 per cent of people with two doses – but 0.7 per cent of people without any.

Scientists working on the Tel Aviv University study said their results suggest the South African variant cannot be combated by the vaccine as well as others.

The South African strain — called B.1.351 — has key mutations on its spike protein which scientists fear might make it difficult for the immune system to recognise. 

These alterations open the door to it being resistant to vaccines, which train the body to spot the spike protein, or natural immunity from previous infection.  

Tel Aviv University researcher Adi Stern said: ‘We found a disproportionately higher rate of the South African variant among people vaccinated with a second dose, compared to the unvaccinated group. 

‘This means that the South African variant is able, to some extent, to break through the vaccine’s protection.’

But scientists stressed that of the 800 people examined, the South African Covid variant was detected in just 1 per cent of positive tests because there are few South African variant cases in Israel.

While the results of the study may cause concern, the low prevalence of the South African strain was encouraging, according to Stern.

‘Even if the South African variant does break through the vaccine’s protection, it has not spread widely through the population,’ said Stern, adding that the British variant may be ‘blocking’ the spread of the South African strain.

The 400 people who had the vaccine were matched with age and gender – among other characteristics – with 400 people who didn’t.

UK medical regulators this week concluded that the AstraZeneca vaccine was a ‘reasonably plausible’ cause of 79 cases of unusual blood clots, including 19 deaths. 

The NHS has now cancelled thousands of appointments for those aged 18-29 who were booked in to get their first dose of the Oxford jab. 

And scientists today warned that unchecked Covid hotspots could lead to a third wave of the virus if the country reopens too quickly.

Ministers have been blasted for ignoring their pledge to follow ‘data not dates’ when lifting lockdown in line with Boris Johnson’s roadmap.

As it stands, six groups – or two households – can meet outside. Outdoor pubs and restaurants, alongside non-essential shops, are to reopen their doors on Monday.

Meanwhile, official figures show an average of 30.7 cases per 100,000. 

But five local authority areas, Wakefield, Barnsley, Mansfield, Corby and Clackmannanshire, have three times that figure. Twenty-eight have at least double. 

Leeds University medical school Associate Professor Stephen Griffin said there are still ‘far too many virus hotspots and not enough attention being paid to controlling infections that might spread from them’. 

Parts of West Yorkshire, the Black Country and other regions still have high case figures but people can often not afford to isolate, Professor Griffin said, adding: ‘We need to tackle that issue urgently or the virus will come back again.’ 

Warwick medical school’s Professor Lawrence Young told The Observer: ‘We need a properly-funded system for quarantining infected people. We don’t have that and we could head back into trouble again quite quickly.’

The scientists argue that waiting until more people are vaccinated would be a better approach. 

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