Prominent SAGE scientists claim the UK’s winter coronavirus wave is flattening out today after cases fell four days in a row – despite the country recording the worst death toll on record on Wednesday.
Another 1,564 Covid fatalities were announced in the UK yesterday on the deadliest day since the start of the pandemic, with the total number of lab-confirmed victims on track to exceed the eerie 100,000 by February.
But Sir Patrick Vallance, No10’s Chief Scientific Officer, and Professor Neil Ferguson, whose models plunged the UK into its first lockdown in March, said there are “ early signs ” that the third national shutdown is slowing the crisis.
They have pointed out that the number of people taking Covid is on a downward trend nationally, with yesterday’s 47,525 positive tests in Britain down a quarter from last week’s figure.
But there is a delay of about three weeks between someone contracting the disease and dying from it, which means it takes about 21 days for a trend in cases to translate to death rates.
With Britain only closing a week ago, daily Covid deaths are likely to continue to rise for at least another two weeks before falling.
Here MailOnline answers your questions about the current Covid situation in the UK:
Are fallen everywhere going down?
According to the most recent official data up to 8 January, the number of covid infections is decreasing in all authorities in the UK.
There are cases in boroughs in London, the South East and East of England – which were most affected by the winter wave leading up to the national shutdown on January 4.
Infections in Kent – one of the first areas of England to be hit with the toughest local lockdown measures – actually slowed before the third lockdown, suggesting that the strict Tier Four restrictions in place there had some effect.
In London, the number of positive test subjects per 100,000 fell from a peak of 1,116 on January 4 to 1,005 on January 7. But according to figures from the Department of Health, there was a slight increase in each region on Jan. 8.
In the East of England it fell from 856 per 100,000 to 741 and in the South East from 774 to 679 in the same period.
However, in areas with the lightest rules, cases continued to increase late into the year and despite almost the entire country having stricter rules on Boxing Day, cases continued to rise until the start of the lockdown, some of which are still increasing.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, said: “It is too early to be sure that the data from the past few days does indeed mean that we have now peaked.
The current positive signals may represent a statistical disturbance or a momentary effect, causing recent gains to stall only to resume the wave.
‘It is also too early to steer this from the vaccination campaign. But if the recent trend continues, it would be very good news for our NHS. ‘
Why are there still infections in some parts of the country?
In some parts of the country, infections are still on the rise as lockdown measures take weeks to take effect.
It is no coincidence that the places where cases continue to rise are in areas where restrictions were looser in December.
In the city region of Liverpool – formerly the Covid hotspot of Great Britain – for example, we see another sharp increase in the number of infections.
In Knowsley, where the biggest increase in England took place last week, there were 1,399.3 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days ending January 9, up from 796.8.
Merseyside was under Tier 2 restrictions until January, which allowed restaurants, cinemas and gyms to remain open. The same was true of places in the southwest. Torbay in Devon saw the number of cases double to 254 per 100,000 in the past week.
When do hospitalizations start to fall?
Hospital admissions are already declining in London and the Southeast and slowing in the East, official figures suggest.
Statistics from the Department of Health show that daily admissions in the capital peaked on January 6 – on the second day of the shutdown – when the seven-day average was 864. It dropped to 845 the next day. In the southeast, hospital admissions also peaked on January 6, when they reached 662.
And in the east of England – which was at the same time under the strictest restrictions – they started to level off on January 4, but they didn’t begin to decline yet.
But even as admissions have slowed across the capital and in regions that first hit the toughest circles, the total number of patients in the hospital is still rising as the number of new cases needing to be treated every day is still high .
Nearly 36,500 infected Britons received NHS care on January 11.
Despite the ray of hope that comes with declining infections, hospital admissions for patients suffering from the virus continue to rise in the Southwest, Northwest, Northeast and Midlands as well.
The time lapse of about three weeks between a person who contracts Covid and becomes seriously ill from it means that hospital rates can continue to rise for another fourteen days. But they are expected to decline thereafter in line with trends in infection rates.
But when will NHS hospitals start to feel pressured?
Coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions and deaths will continue to rise in the UK for weeks on end, and will not peak until next month, a top NHS chief said.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said he expects the pressure to build and start to ease in February as the third lockdown doesn’t seem to be working as quickly as the one in the spring, he claimed.
He warned a public health and social care committee yesterday: ‘It is quite clear that the infection rate is not going to fall as quickly as in the first phase.
‘We were hoping for a sharp peak that came earlier and shorter. So something where, for example, we saw the peak and started climbing it in mid to late January.
It now looks like the peak for NHS demand could now be in February. If that is correct, it basically means that there is a higher level and a longer period of pressure on the NHS than we expected even a week ago. ‘
A wave of permissions now hit the East of England in the Midlands, the North West and the South West, after London, the South East and the East suffered the most from the winter wave.
“That’s a particular concern, as confidence in the Midlands and the North still has a significant number of patients hospitalized since the second wave.”
Why are deaths still on the rise?
Deaths are always weeks behind cases because of the time it takes patients to catch Covid and get sick from it.
While it varies from person to person, experts say it takes about three weeks for an infected person to succumb to the disease.
For this reason, scientists can predict how deaths will evolve based on how infections fluctuate.
The number of cases in the UK has been declining for four days in a row, which seems to show that infections are on a downward trend just a week after the national lockdown.
As infections have declined since last week, it would indicate that deaths will follow in about two weeks.