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Coronavirus UK: South West will be hardest hit by second wave

Britain’s stay-cation hotspots of Devon, Cornwall and Dorset will be hit the hardest by a second wave of coronavirus, a study has claimed.

South West England — home to around 5.6million people — fared relatively well during the first bout of Covid-19, which killed 55,000 Brits.

But now scientists fear the rural region, famed for its beautiful coastline, is likely to be the first to endure the inevitable effects of the lockdown being eased. 

Cambridge University researchers say the South West could face 350 new cases a day later this month – around 40 per cent more than during the height of the crisis in April.

Government advisers believe only three per cent of the region’s population have caught the virus since the outbreak began, meaning it is nowhere near herd immunity, which is thought to require 60 per cent of a population to catch the virus.

And experts say the region has a high proportion of elderly people, who face a much greater risk of dying or becoming seriously ill with the virus.

On top of that, people from across the country are flocking to the beaches for day trips and many more will plan their upcoming summer holidays there. 

The virus is still in circulation, sparking fears among locals that tourists will bring the infection with them.

A second wave of the coronavirus could hit south west England the hardest, a study claims. The orange dots on the left are new daily cases from March to end of May. Beyond the vertical blue dashed line marks are the predicted new cases over the summer. The researchers model suggests the South West could face 350 new cases per day in July in the worst case scenario (the lighter shade of orange), and between 50 and 150 cases per day in a better scenario (the dark shade of orange)

A second wave of the coronavirus could hit south west England the hardest, a study claims. The orange dots on the left are new daily cases from March to end of May. Beyond the vertical blue dashed line marks are the predicted new cases over the summer. The researchers model suggests the South West could face 350 new cases per day in July in the worst case scenario (the lighter shade of orange), and between 50 and 150 cases per day in a better scenario (the dark shade of orange)

The East Midlands could see a second wave (the shaded orange). The recent outbreak in Leicester coobrerates this finding, the researchers said

The East Midlands could see a second wave (the shaded orange). The recent outbreak in Leicester coobrerates this finding, the researchers said

The West Midlands may see a second wave (pictured, the shaded orange)

The West Midlands may see a second wave (pictured, the shaded orange)

The East Midlands and West Midlands may experience rebound of incidence after June, the study suggested

Yorkshire and the Humber may also be hit with a second wave

Yorkshire and the Humber may also be hit with a second wave

Yorkshire and the Humber may also be hit with a second wave 

Cases of the coronavirus have slowly dwindled in the UK over the past few weeks, as the outbreak that once terrorised the nation continues to fizzle out.

But the Office for National Statistics last week warned that the decline in the number of people getting infected has now ‘levelled off’.

An estimated 3,500 people are still getting infected every day in England alone, only a slight reduction on the 3,800 people per day in mid-June.

However, the rate has barely changed since mid-June, when data suggested 3,800 cases occurred each day.

It means the virus still exists and is spreading, with the risk of it spiralling out of control and causing spikes post-lockdown if it isn’t closely monitored.   

Boris Johnson has largely lifted the draconian lockdown restrictions – first imposed on March 23 – for the general public, allowing Britons to return to the pubs. 

Scientists are eager to measure the impact of his decisions — including the latest from PhD student Yang Liu, from the University Cambridge, alongside virologists at University of Leicester and The University of Hong Kong.

They aimed to calculate which of the nine regions in England were most likely to see the coronavirus return this summer. 

First, they estimated the natural R rate  — the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects — in each region. 

It was highest in London, the South West and the South East (3.9). 

But the rate, which is flexible and is heavily reduced when people stop interacting with each other, dropped in every region during the lockdown to below one.

Keeping the R rate below one is crucial for controlling any coronavirus outbreak because it limits the chain of transmission.

HOW COULD LOCAL LOCKDOWNS WORK? 

Local lockdowns could be imposed on whole towns if there are regional flare-ups of coronavirus cases , Matt Hancock confirmed in May.

The Health Secretary said the ability to tighten restrictions in individual regions will be part of the NHS test, track and trace system, which creates networks of at-risk people around every person who tests positive for the coronavirus.

Local lockdowns could lead to schools, businesses or workplaces being closed in areas with high prevalence of infection, according to the government’s road map on easing lockdown restrictions. 

Affected areas could also be left out of measure to ease the lockdown which are being applied to the country more widely.

For example, pubs are set to reopen on July 4 and people will be allowed to mix with other households in small groups. But areas still experiencing high numbers of cases could be told not to change their rules. 

Mr Hancock said in a Downing Street press briefing last month: ‘We will have local lockdowns in future where there are flare-ups and we have a system we are putting in place with a combination of Public Health England and the new Joint Biosecurity Centre, along with the local directors of public health who play an absolutely crucial role in the decision-making in the system, to make sure if there is a local flare-up there is a local lockdown.’ 

Several different academic teams make their own estimations of the R rate using their own model. Some feed into Number 10’s scientific advisory panel SAGE who update the figures each week. 

Mr Liu and colleagues’ estimations were made by ‘reconstructing’ the transmission dynamics of the spread in the virus in each region using the daily number of laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases between 27 February and 31 May 2020, collected by Public Health England. 

The researchers forecast the possibility of a second wave for all the regions based on an equation called SEIR — Susceptible, Exposed, Infectious, and Recovered — commonly used to model epidemics. 

Everyone falls into one of those groups — they have either not had the coronavirus, currently have it, or have recovered (or died).

Scientists can model how many people would be in each group for two different scenarios — but did not publish these figures.    

The team assumed the R rate would stay constant after May 31, given that it was unlikely to go down when lockdown was eased. 

The East of England, North West and South East, where the R remains significantly lower than 1, appear to be safe from a resurgence of the virus.

But as well as the South West, the East Midlands, West Midlands, and Yorkshire and the Humber may experience rebound of incidence after June. 

Each region may report daily new cases 40 per cent higher than they were at the peak of the their outbreak in March or April, the study claimed.

Because the South West’s R was high on 31 May, it will likely have a relatively high number of infected people – more than 100 people – until August.

The authors of the paper write: ‘While the UK government has been considering lifting some control measures to restore the economy, special attentions should be paid to the regions with the risk of second wave outbreak.’

Leicester, of East Midlands, and Cleckheaton of Yorkshire, recently reported surges of cases, which the researchers said corroborates the model forecast. 

The study’s estimations are published online and have not been reviewed by independent scientists.

But they are partially in line with Government predictions for current R rates, which say it has reached 1 or higher in London, the Midlands, the North East and Yorkshire, the South East and the South West.

Number 10’s scientific advisers say the R rate is still between 0.7 and 0.9 as a whole for the UK after months in lockdown.

However, the South West has not been flagged as a high-risk region based on infection rates in the past month.

London, which had the highest new cases per day of all regions during the pandemic, is unlikely to see a second wave according to the model. This may  be because there is higher immunity in the capital than elsewhere

London, which had the highest new cases per day of all regions during the pandemic, is unlikely to see a second wave according to the model. This may  be because there is higher immunity in the capital than elsewhere

London, which had the highest new cases per day of all regions during the pandemic, is unlikely to see a second wave according to the model. This may  be because there is higher immunity in the capital than elsewhere

The North East may have 150 new cases of the coronavirus in August

The North East may have 150 new cases of the coronavirus in August

The East of England will see cases decline and stay low

The East of England will see cases decline and stay low

The East of England, North West and South East, where R remains significantly lower than 1, appear to be safe from a resurgence of the virus.

The North West is not expected to see a dramatic resurgence in cases

The North West is not expected to see a dramatic resurgence in cases

The South East was not predicted to see a second wave

The South East was not predicted to see a second wave

The East of England, North West and South East, where R remains significantly lower than 1, appear to be safe from a resurgence of the virus.

THIRTY-FOUR AREAS IN ENGLAND HAVE SEEN SPIKES IN COVID-19 CASES OVER THE PAST WEEK 

Thirty-four areas in England have seen coronavirus infection rates rise in the past week, fuelling concerns that more places could be hit with Leicester-style localised lockdowns.

Redcar, a seaside town in North Yorkshire, and leafy Wokingham in Berkshire suffered the biggest week-on-week spikes in Covid-19 cases up to June 28, Public Health England (PHE) figures show. 

Coronavirus infections in Redcar and Cleveland jumped from 0.7 to 5.1 per 100,000 people, while in Wokingham they rose from 0.6 to 3.

Some experts say case rates in countryside getaways and idyllic seaside resorts might fluctuate over summer as more Britons choose to go on staycations because of the uncertainly of travelling abroad.

East London boroughs of Havering (1.4 to 5.1) and Barking and Dagenham (1.9 to 5.4) were among the authorities that recorded the biggest percentage spikes.

Elsewhere in the capital, cases per 100,000 rose from 1 to 3.1 in Richmond, and infections in the western boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham and Hillingdon went up from 5.9 to 12.4 and 2.6 to 5.9, respectively. Thirteen London boroughs in total saw cases creep up in the last week, as the virus appears to be making a small resurgence in the capital following the latest lockdown-loosening measures. 

The same data showed Leicester’s rate of new Covid-19 cases has ‘stabilised’ — rising from 140.2 to 141.3 cases per 100,000 people. Other hotspots in Yorkshire, Bradford, Barnsley and Rochdale, saw cases drop. 

Redcar, a seaside town in North Yorkshire, and leafy Wokingham in Berkshire suffered the biggest week-on-week spikes in Covid-19 cases up to June 28, Public Health England (PHE) figures show. Coronavirus infections in Redcar and Cleveland jumped from 0.7 to 5.1 per 100,000 people, while in Wokingham they rose from 0.6 to 3

Redcar, a seaside town in North Yorkshire, and leafy Wokingham in Berkshire suffered the biggest week-on-week spikes in Covid-19 cases up to June 28, Public Health England (PHE) figures show. Coronavirus infections in Redcar and Cleveland jumped from 0.7 to 5.1 per 100,000 people, while in Wokingham they rose from 0.6 to 3

Redcar, a seaside town in North Yorkshire, and leafy Wokingham in Berkshire suffered the biggest week-on-week spikes in Covid-19 cases up to June 28, Public Health England (PHE) figures show. Coronavirus infections in Redcar and Cleveland jumped from 0.7 to 5.1 per 100,000 people, while in Wokingham they rose from 0.6 to 3

The South West has only recorded 227.9 cases for every 100,000 people – the lowest rate for any of the regions in England. In comparison, the rate in the North West – the worst-hit area – is 586.3.

The researchers did not offer their thoughts on why the South West would be most implicated in a second Covid-19 crisis considering its escape from the first.

Professor Philip Thomas, an expert in risk management at the University of Bristol, says the lack of herd immunity is one of the biggest reasons why the South West will be worst-hit by a second wave.

It comes after the largest easing of lockdown to date on July 4, dubbed ‘Super Saturday’, when pubs, restaurants and hairdressers re-opened. 

Hundreds of businesses in the South West are looking forward to the much-needed boost of holidaymakers in England whose plans to go abroad have been cancelled.

But some people in Cornwall expressed worries this weekend that it could be too soon to be easing the lockdown.

Travel to the region always increases in the summer, when tens of thousands of Britons are desperate to enjoy the sunshine and crystal clear waters.

And because travel abroad is currently so restricted – due to the Covid-19 pandemic – thousands more are likely to opt to holiday on the English coast instead.

Other reasons why the South West escaped a major crisis in the first wave could be down to the population tending to be white and wealthy.

The region has some of the lowest unemployment rates and highest rates of house ownership without debt, according to official figures.

More than 95 per cent of people living in the South West are white. In comparison, the rate for England and Wales is 80 per cent, according to the 2011 consensus.

ONS data today showed Black and Asian Britons are up to four times more likely to have had fought the coronavirus. 

The results from a government-run Covid-19 surveillance scheme, which has tested 36,000 people across England, revealed 4.5 per cent of white people had developed antibodies — substances created by the immune system in response to specific pathogens.

This compared with 12.2 per cent for Asian Brits, 7.7 per cent for black people and as high as 16.7 per cent for other ethnic groups.

Experts say it may be partly explained by the minority groups being more likely to live in deprived areas, work in low-paid jobs or use public transport, where they interact with more potential carriers of the disease.  

However, there is no one measure of vulnerability that can explain or predict which areas of the UK will be hardest hit during the crisis.   

Although the South West has predominantly white people living there, it has a relatively old population.

More than 22 per cent of the region’s population is of state pension age, the largest proportion of any UK region. 

The elderly are most at risk of the coronavirus. Those aged 60 years and over make up 90 per cent of deaths in NHS England hospitals. 

This map shows how there has been a 'North/South' divide in the infection rates in England (data between June 15 and June 21)

This map shows how there has been a 'North/South' divide in the infection rates in England (data between June 15 and June 21)

This map shows how there has been a ‘North/South’ divide in the infection rates in England (data between June 15 and June 21)

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