Britain announces 142 more coronavirus deaths in preliminary tally as official number of Covid-19 victims tops 40,000 – while separate data shows crucial R rate is ABOVE 1 in the North West and South West
- The preliminary death toll is calculated by adding up all of the individual updates from the home nations
- NHS England today recorded 123 more deaths in patients who tested positive for the virus in hospitals
- Scotland registered 14 fatalities across all settings, followed by four in Wales and one in Northern Ireland
- Separate estimates suggested the R-rate is above the danger level of one in the North West and South West
- Health chiefs this afternoon claimed the overall rate remained between 0.7 and 0.9 across the UK as a whole
- The PHE/Cambridge team also say 17,000 people are being struck down with Covid-19 in England every day
- The estimate is three times higher than what results of a government-run testing scheme suggested today
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
The UK’s official coronavirus death toll today surpassed 40,000 as health chiefs announced 142 more Brits have lost their lives to the disease and scientists suggested the R rate has now risen to above the dreaded number of one in two regions of England.
Department of Health bosses, who promise to release a daily Covid-19 update at 2pm ‘or shortly after’, have yet to announce the final tally. The preliminary count – which is often much lower because it doesn’t include deaths in all settings in England – is calculated by adding up all of the individual updates from each of the home nations.
NHS England today recorded 123 more deaths in patients who tested positive for the virus in hospitals. Scotland registered 14 fatalities across all settings, followed by four in Wales and one in Northern Ireland. It would take the total number of deaths to at least 40,046.
It comes as separate estimates produced by experts at Public Health England and Cambridge University today suggested the R-rate – the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects – is above the danger level of one in the North West and South West.
The reproduction rate must stay below one or Britain will face another crisis. Health chiefs this afternoon claimed the overall rate remained between 0.7 and 0.9 across the UK as a whole but admitted it may be a little higher in England.
The PHE/Cambridge team also estimated 17,000 people were still being struck down with Covid-19 across England every day – three times the estimated from a separate government-run surveillance testing scheme. And they warned the true figure could be as high as 25,000.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures also released today – based on swabs taken of nearly 20,000 people – suggested England’s outbreak has shrunk by half in the past week and is infecting around 5,500 people each day.
Data from the Office for National Statistics shows a downward trend in the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus over the course of May
Britain is beginning to flout coronavirus lockdown rules, according to government data that was published today.
Nearly one in twelve Brits (7.7 per cent) polled met up with family or friends in one of their homes between May 29 and 31.
This is 63 per cent higher than the rate recorded by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the week before (4.7 per cent).
Boris Johnson last week gave the green light to the first socialising since lockdown, allowing up to six people to meet outdoors and in private gardens for BBQs.
But spending time inside another household is still not permitted, as health bosses desperately try to prevent a second wave of Covid-19 cases.
The ONS data, published today, did not reveal whether or not the visits counted as going inside someone’s home or just in their garden.
Separate data from the poll – carried out on 1,224 adults – showed Britain’s anxiety rates have dropped to the lowest since lockdown was imposed on March 23.
Results showed the average anxiety rating was 3.7 between May 28-31, down from a high of 5.2 at the start of the crisis.
Survey data from the Office for Statistics showed that six out of 10 people now feel comfortable meeting up with people who don’t live in their household
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) predicts that there are now only 53,000 people in England who currently have Covid-19 – 0.1 per cent of the population.
This estimate – based on swab tests of nearly 20,000 people picked at random to give ministers a clearer picture as to the true scale of the crisis in Britain – is a massive drop on the 133,000 people (0.24 per cent) thought to the have the illness in the same data last week.
And the ONS says that around 39,000 people per week are catching the infection – 5,500 per day, which is a drop from 54,000 per week between May 16 and May 23. This means that only around one in every 1,000 people are actually carrying the virus, down from one in 400 at the latest estimate.
The ONS report said: ‘As the proportion of those testing positive in England is decreasing over time, it is likely that the incidence rate is also decreasing. However, because of the low number of new positive cases, we cannot currently measure a reduction.’
Different data from blood antibody tests, published yesterday by Public Health England, suggested that around 8.5 per cent of the country has had the virus already – some 4.76million people.
In a separate report published today the ONS confirmed that more than a quarter of the 46,380 ‘excess’ deaths that happened between March 7 and May 1 were not directly linked to Covid-19.
That data showed that the number of people dying in care homes of any cause rose by a staggering 60 per cent in March and April, while it rose 43 per cent in private homes. Hospitals, meanwhile, saw 21 per cent fewer deaths than usual.
As well as a lack of testing, possible explanations for more people dying without even catching the virus were down to them avoiding medical care out of fear, that increased stress caused by the pandemic was killing people, and that hospitals had less capacity to help people.
As part of a nationwide swab testing scheme to find out what proportion of people would currently test positive for the disease, 19,723 people were tested between May 17 and May 30.
Those people came from 9,094 households. A total of 21 of them, from 15 different households, tested positive during that time – 0.1 per cent.
The test data covers a two-week period meaning last week’s and this week’s share one of the same weeks, but the ONS’s estimate based on its data has dropped significantly.
The promising signal from the ONS ties in with testing data from the Department of Health which shows officials are finding it harder to track down positive cases.
Numbers of people getting diagnosed with Covid-19 through the official testing programme has fallen significantly this week despite more tests being carried out.
In the seven days up to yesterday, June 4, 13,335 people tested positive across the UK, compared to 18,219 in the seven days before that – a 36 per cent drop.
Professor Keith Neal, an epidemiologist at the University of Nottingham, said: ‘The rate of infection continues to decline and is half what it was two weeks ago. Changes over a longer period are now statistically significant.
‘This is highly compatible with the fall in diagnosed cases. The contact tracing service has more than enough staff to cope with the current level of infection.
‘The main problem is people not getting tested for COVID-19 when they have symptoms.’
He added: ‘The main limitation of the study is the small numbers testing positive gives wide confidence intervals.
‘No study is perfect but by following the same group of people it is a very powerful tool to identify the trend.’
A separate report published today by the ONS aimed to try and explain why there have been so many ‘excess’ deaths during the coronavirus crisis in England and Wales.
It calculated that, between March 7 and May 1, 46,380 more people died than average. Some 12,900 of them (27.8 per cent) were not direct victims of Covid-19.
That period, when NHS hospitals were urged to turf out as many patients as they could who didn’t need urgent treatment, saw a 21 per cent drop in hospital deaths, the report said.
But the number of people dying in care homes soared by a massive 60 per cent, and in private homes it rose by 43 per cent.
The report said the largest increase in deaths was seen in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Nick Stripe, the head of health analysis at the ONS, said in a tweet: ‘Dementia increases are so sharp it’s implausible that they are unrelated to Covid-19.
HOW TESTING WILL TRACK THE VIRUS’S R VALUE AND MONITOR COVID-19
REGULAR SWAB TESTS FOR 25,000
At least 25,000 people will be enrolled into a scheme in which they will take swab tests each month to see if they are infected at the time.
The mass sampling study will continue for the next year and will be scaled up to include 300,000 people if it is found to be useful.
The surveillance scheme is being co-led by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The first official results are expected imminently.
REGULAR ANTIBODY TESTING
Further antibody testing will be rolled out to 1,000 households across the country, to work out how much of the population has already been infected.
Trained nurses will take blood samples from the volunteers and send them to a lab where they are analysed to see if they have developed any immunity.
The scheme is also being run by the ONS and Oxford University, which will analyse the anonymised blood tests in one of their laboratories.
100,000 RANDOM TESTS
Imperial College London will oversee a two-part REACT programme (Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission).
The first part of this will be the 100,000 tests of random people in 315 different areas of the UK, to see how many of them are currently infected.
RANDOM ANTIBODY HOME TESTS
Part two will be a roll-out of at-home antibody tests, which can tell whether people have already had the disease and recovered. These will be given to 300 people for an initial trial and then rolled out to 10,000 people and then to 100,000 if it is successful.
The antibody tests will create a picture of how many people have had the virus already and may have immunity to it, meaning they won’t catch it again, at least in the short-term.
‘They generally affect the very old, they would tend to impact women to a greater extent than men simply due to pop[ulation] structure. Especially once care home epidemics took hold with [limited] testing.’
The ONS said that, although many of the deaths among elderly people were not attributed to Covid-19, large numbers of undiagnosed cases of the disease were a ‘likely explanation’.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and other symptoms linked to old age accounted for two thirds of the total number of non-Covid-19 excess deaths in England and Wales from March 7 to May 1, the ONS said.
There were 5,404 more deaths than expected among dementia and Alzheimer’s disease patients – a rise of 52 per cent compared to average.
And 1,567 excess deaths occurred due to ‘symptoms signs and ill-defined conditions’ – a 77.8% rise from the five-year average.
Undiagnosed Covid-19 could ‘help explain the rise’ in the deaths of frail elderly people with underlying conditions, particularly women and those in care homes, the ONS added.
It said: ‘The absence of large rises in deaths due to this cause that mention conditions that could exhibit similar symptoms to Covid-19 suggests that if Covid-19 is involved in the increase in deaths due to dementia and Alzheimer disease, the usual symptoms of Covid-19 were not apparent.
‘This could fit with recent clinical observations, where atypical hypoxia [low blood oxygen] has been observed in some Covid-19 patients.
‘In someone with advanced dementia and Alzheimer disease, the symptoms of Covid-19 might be difficult to distinguish from their underlying illness, especially with the possibility of communication difficulties.
‘Care home residents have experienced changes to their usual routine as a result of measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Adverse effects of such changes cannot be discounted as another possible explanation of the increase in the number of deaths in care homes.’
Friday’s release is the first detailed analysis from the ONS looking at the increased number of deaths during the pandemic where coronavirus was not mentioned on the death certificate.
The highest number of excess non-Covid-19 deaths have taken place in care homes, with a weekly maximum of 2,975 of these deaths being registered in the seven days to April 17.
Non-Covid-19 deaths in private homes saw a separate peak in the week ending April 24, when 1,760 were registered.
The ONS said that if patients have been discharged from hospital sooner than they may have been typically, because of pressure on the NHS’s resources, this ‘could have resulted in some deaths occurring in care homes or private homes that would have otherwise occurred in hospital’.
It added that the reported lower rates of testing in all settings outside hospitals ‘could lead to some deaths in other locations involving Covid-19 not having Covid-19 listed on the death certificate as a contributory factor, leading to apparently higher non-Covid-19 excess deaths’.
Up to 5.6million people in England – 10% of the country – may have already had the coronavirus, government antibody sampling scheme reveals
Up to 5.6million people in England could have already had the coronavirus, according to results of a government-run surveillance scheme.
Blood samples taken from almost 8,000 people suggest up to 10 per cent of the country have antibodies specific to Covid-19, showing they have had the disease in the past.
Public Health England’s best estimate is that 8.5 per cent of people in England have already had the coronavirus – 4.76million people. But this, it admitted, could be as high as 10 per cent (5.6m) or as low as 6.9 per cent (3.864m).
Regional variations show that the rate of infection has been considerably higher in London, with 15.6 per cent of the city’s population already affected. And it has been lowest in the South West, where only 2.6 per cent of people are thought to have had the virus.
The national prevalence of antibodies suggests that, with around 43,000 deaths from a population of 56million people, the true death rate of Covid-19 is 0.9 per cent – nine times deadlier than the flu.
This suggests it kills one in every 111 people who catch the disease will die with it. The death rate was again lower in London, where it appeared to be 0.57 per cent.
PHE’s data was based on blood tests taken from 7,694 people across England in May, of which around 654 tested positive. It chimes with other estimates which suggest similar numbers.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) put the national level of past infection at 6.78 per cent – around 4.5million people in the UK – while Health Secretary Matt Hancock had previously announced early PHE results suggesting it was only five per cent nationwide.
Data from Public Health England showed that London has the largest proportion of its population already infected with the coronavirus, while the fewest people were infected in the South West of England
The death rate calculations are based on a total 43,353 deaths in England, which is composed of the 42,210 recorded by May 22 by the Office for National Statistics, plus a further 1,143 announced by NHS England since then.
Government data records mean non-hospital deaths specifically for England cannot yet be counted between May 22 and June 4.
And the estimate for London’s death rate follows the same formula – the ONS announced 8,034 by May 22 and 78 have died in hospitals since then: a total 8,112.
Scientists say that the reason for a lower death rate in London is that the city has a younger average age than other regions.
Covid-19 is known to be worse for elderly people, who are more likely to die if they catch the virus. It has killed one in every 57 over-90s in the country already.
Professor Keith Neal, an epidemiologist at the University of Nottingham, said: ‘I would consider the average of Londoners to be younger than outside.
‘If people in London were seven years younger then there would be a 50 per cent lower death rate just from this measure alone. Also land is expensive in London so probably fewer care homes than outside per head of population.’
London’s rate may also be lower because it has had far more infections, meaning more will have been among healthier people in the community. In areas with fewer coronavirus cases, there is a chance a greater proportion of the cases were caught in hospitals or care homes by people who were more likely to die – this would artificially increase the death rate.
Antibody testing is a method of sampling people’s blood to look for antibodies, which are made by the body so it can remember how to fight off certain diseases.
Only someone who has already had Covid-19 will have antibodies in the blood.
EVERY RECOVERED COVID-19 PATIENTS DEVELOPS ANTIBODIES – BUT THEY MAY NOT BLOCK THE INFECTION AGAIN
Most people who recover from the novel coronavirus generate at least some antibodies capable of neutralizing SARS-CoV-2, the first round of results from a new study suggest.
While many antibodies grab hold of the virus, only a few counteract the pathogen and prevent it from entering our cells.
Researchers from Rockefeller University in New York City looked at 149 recovered patients and determined that the majority had a weak antibody response.
However, they found that every patient’s immune system seemed to be capable of generating the types of antibodies that neutralize the virus, just not particularly enough of them.
‘This suggests just about everybody can do this, which is very good news for vaccines,’ Dr Michel C Nussenzweig, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology at Rockefeller, said in a statement.
‘It means if you were able to create a vaccine that elicits these particular antibodies, then the vaccine is likely to be effective and work for a lot of people.’
For the study, published on pre-peer review site bioRxiv.org, the team looked at 149 people who donated plasma at The Rockefeller Hospital in New York City over the course of five weeks.
Convalescent plasma is the liquid portion of blood is taken from a recovered coronavirus patient, which contains antibodies and immune B-cells.
Participants had symptoms of the virus for about 12 days while infected, and their first symptoms occurred about 39 days before they donated plasma.
Researchers then mixed the plasma with a pseudo coronavirus and measured if or how well the virus would infect human cells in a petri dish.
Most samples did not do very well at neutralizing the virus.
In fact, the neutralizing effect was undetectable in 33 per cent of donors. The investigators say this may be because their immune systems cleared the infection before antibodies could be produced.
They found that the effect was very high among one percent of patients, so-called ‘elite donors.’
The team identified 40 antibodies that neutralized the virus, and focused on three that did so even at low levels.
These antibodies bound to at least three sites on the spike protein found on the surface of the coronavirus that it uses to enter our cells.
Researchers now plan to clone these antibodies in hopes it will help patients with severe or life-threatening cases of the virus.
‘We now know what an effective antibody looks like and we have found similar ones in more than one person,’ Robbiani said.
By running blood samples through a machine which contains a part of the virus, scientists can monitor whether the blood reacts in a way that shows it knows how to fight the virus – this indicates they have had the illness in the past and recovered.
PHE’s data gives regional breakdowns of the levels of antibodies it has found in blood samples so far.
The numbers are still based on relatively small samples so must be treated with caution.
These were the approximate regional proportions of people who have had the virus already:
- England 8.5 per cent
- London: 15.6 per cent
- North West: 10 per cent
- East of England: 8 per cent
- North East: 6.1 per cent
- Midlands: 5 per cent
- South East: 4 per cent
- South West: 2.6 per cent
Data from the antibody tests should be taken with a pinch of salt because the tests can produce large margins of error, even if they are highly specific, and studies have suggested that some people produce barely-detectable levels of antibodies.
PHE’s figures show that men are more likely to have had the virus than women – 9.4 per cent of men tested positive for antibodies compared with 7.6 per cent of women.
And they were also more likely to be found in younger people.
People aged between 17 and 29 were most likely to have had the disease anywhere in England, with an estimated infection rate of 10.2 per cent.
The lowest rate of past infection was in the oldest age group included in the data – the 60 to 69-year-olds, of whom 6.3 per cent had antibodies.
Prevalence became gradually higher as the age groups got younger, with a rate of 7.8 per cent among people in their 50s, 7.9 per cent in people in their 40 and 9.3 per cent in people in their 30s.
Officials said that the effect of lockdown meant the antibody data did not appear to have changed much. Only massively bigger sample sizes might changes this.
The report said: ‘Adjusted prevalence estimates vary across the country and over time.
‘Given that antibody response takes at least two weeks to become detectable, those displaying a positive result in week 18 [April 27 to May 3] are likely to have become infected before mid-April.
‘The plateauing observed between weeks 18-21 demonstrates the impact of lock down measures on new infections.’
Today’s report comes after the Office for National Statistics estimated last week that around seven per cent of the country had had the virus already.
That data, which had not been published before, was based on 885 blood tests to look for signs of coronavirus-specific antibodies in members of the public.
The tests were analysed by researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of Manchester from people who have provided blood samples since April 26.
Their finding that 6.78 per cent of the sample had the antibodies suggest the same rate of infection has been experienced across England, at least. It is reasonable to scale that to the entire of the UK, suggesting around 4.5million people have been infected.
On how this could affect the death rate of the virus in Britain, Cambridge University statistician Professor David Spiegelhalter said: ‘As a back-of-envelope calculation, the latest ONS survey suggests around 6.8 per cent of 56million people in England have been infected, which is around four million, and there’s been around 40,000 deaths in England linked to COVID.
‘So this suggests that infection has carried around a 1 per cent average mortality rate. Which is impressively close to the much-disputed estimate of 0.9 per cent made by the Imperial College team back in March.’
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