More than ONE MILLION people in England – or one in 50 – were infected with Covid in final week before schoolchildren broke up for half-term, official data shows as health chiefs beg students to get tested before going back to class
More than one million people in England were infected with Covid in the week before half-term, official data today revealed as health chiefs beg students to get tested before going back to class.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 1.1million — around one in 50 — people had the virus on any given day in the week ending October 22.
Infections have not been as high since January 9, when they stood at 1.13million, during the darkest days of the Covid crisis. Cases rose 12.8 per cent on last week’s figure of 977,900 — the fifth week in a row infections increased.
Meanwhile, separate data from the UK Health Security Agency, which took over from the now-defunct PHE, today showed the the R rate rose on last week and is around 1.1 to 1.3, up from 1.0 to 1.2.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid today called on all secondary school and college students to get tested regardless of symptoms before they return to classrooms next week.
Ministers hope high case levels can be suppressed by preventing school-age children — who have the highest case rates in the country — mixing while infected.
The data comes despite official Government data showing cases continued to decrease for the fifth day in a row yesterday.
‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist who sits on SAGE, said Plan B — which would see the return of face masks and work from home guidance if the NHS becomes overwhelmed — ‘shouldn’t be necessary’ if cases keep dropping.
Experts today said the ONS figures — which are a week behind the official daily count — will not be able to reflect the drop-off for another week.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 1.1million — around one in 50 — people had the virus on any given day in the week ending October 22
The ONS said rates have increased in all age groups except for those from school year 12 to age 24 and for those aged 25 to 34, where the trend was uncertain
The percentage of people testing positive for Covid is estimated to have increased in all regions of England except north-east England, north-west England and Yorkshire and the Humber, where the trend was uncertain
Fewer than 20% of 12-15 year olds in England have had their first Covid vaccine, data shows
England’s Covid vaccine drive for children is going even slower than thought, according to official data that has prompted calls for the NHS to speed up the roll out over fears it could leave No10 with no option but to resort to Plan B.
Just 19.3 per cent of 12 to 15 year olds have come forward for their first jab, figures on the Government dashboard show, despite the whole group being eligible since September 20.
The children’s roll out has been beset by delays and cancellations, while critics complained the decision to only let youngsters get jabbed in schools hampered the drive. Uptake rates were always expected to be lower in children — who face a tiny risk from Covid and a higher risk of complications from the jab.
NHS England insisted today all children had already been invited for their first jab and repeated that they can now book online, after leaked Whitehall documents claimed half the age group is still yet to get a jab offer.
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday urged ministers to ‘turbo-charge’ the roll out to avoid another rebound in Covid cases which could force ministers to impose Plan B — bringing back face masks and work from home guidance.
It comes after the US moved a step closer to jabbing children as young as five this week, which prompted experts to immediately urge Britain not to ‘blindly’ follow suit.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia (UAE), said: ‘I would just point out that infection prevalence has increased in the last week of data compared to the previous week, but this reports covers the period October 16 to 23 so this data is too soon to show whether the fall in daily reported cases in the past few days represent a real decline in infections.
‘If infections really are falling in line with the daily reports on the DHSC Dashboard then the earliest we would see any impact in the ONS dataset is next Friday.’
The ONS estimated around one in 40 people In Wales had Covid in the week to October 22, up from one in 45 the previous week and the highest since estimates began in July 2020.
In Northern Ireland, the latest estimate is around one in 75, up from one in 130 the previous week, but below the record high of one in 40 in mid-August.
For Scotland, the latest estimate is also one in 75, up from one in 90 the previous week but below September’s peak of one in 45. All figures are for people in private households.
The percentage of people testing positive for Covid is estimated to have increased in all regions of England except north-east England, north-west England and Yorkshire and the Humber, where the trend was uncertain.
In south-west England, around one in 40 people was likely to test positive in the week to October 22. This was the highest proportion for any region. London had the lowest proportion, at around one in 65.
Jim Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford, said: ‘The ONS data are very valuable, they are the best measure we have of the infection.
‘Up to the 22nd October, prevalence has increased in England to around 1 in 50 people, from 1 in 55.
‘Based on the experience in Scotland which hit 1 in 45 some weeks ago before falling, I would expect the prevalence in England to have peaked or to be close to the peak.
‘I would note that London has a lower prevalence, an increase to the national average has the potential to lift case numbers.
‘If England has peaked, then other numbers will start to fall. I certainly hope so, 1000 people every day are ending up in hospital and 1000 a week dying. We are running very “hot”.
‘If Scotland has indeed mapped out the path that England will follow, there is some less good news in this release. After some weeks of decreasing prevalence, prevalence in Scotland has levelled off and may have slightly increased to 1 in 75. This bears close watching, if sustained it suggests we may have another peak ahead.’
England’s Covid vaccine drive for children is going even more slowly than first thought. An update to official figures on the dashboard revised down the proportion of 12 to 15-year-olds (purple line) that had been inoculated from 22 to 19 per cent
The above graph shows the proportion of 12 to 15-year-olds who have got the Covid vaccine in England and Scotland. Scotland’s drive has likely surged ahead because children have been able to get their jabs in clinics when the drive began. In England children were only able to get jabs at centres from this week
Covid vaccines are JUST as effective against more transmissible Delta offshoot, early tests show
Covid vaccines appear to work just as well against the more transmissible Delta variant offshoot as they do on its ancestor, health chiefs claimed today.
A report by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which replaced the now-defunct Public Health England (PHE), showed jabs are around 81 per cent effective at stopping people infected with AY.4.2 getting symptoms.
For comparison, two doses are thought to block around 83 per cent of all people falling ill with the original strain.
The UKHSA said the preliminary results do ‘not suggest a significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness for AY.4.2 compared to Delta’ and admitted the slight drop may be down to chance.
Almost 24,000 cases of the strain have now been spotted in Britain. But the true count could be 10 times higher because laboratories are only sequencing a fraction of all confirmed samples.
Separate surveillance data shows the variant has now been found in all but a dozen parts of England and makes up one in ten new cases — with its proportion having doubled in the space of a month.
Despite statistics showing it’s still outcompeting its ancestor, some experts are now questioning how much more transmissible than Delta the subtype really is. Scientists initially estimated the strain was around 10 to 15 per cent more infectious.
Figures show while cases of the mutant strain are continuing to increase, its curve is flattening off. It is increasing slower than its predecessor did at this point after it was first sequenced.
The ONS said rates have increased in all age groups except for those from school year 12 to age 24 and for those aged 25 to 34, where the trend was uncertain.
The percentage of people testing positive remains highest for those in school years 7 to 11, at 9.1 per cent.
And ministers are now calling on students to get tested before they return to classes next week in an effort to suppress cases growing further as the country moves into the winter months.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘As students prepare to go back to school and college after half term, it is vital that they are taking free and easy rapid tests that will help detect Covid infections from those who are not showing symptoms to keep the virus at bay.
‘Alongside testing, the vaccines are a huge defence in our armoury.
‘We’ve already seen tens of thousands of people aged between 12 and 17 booking in for their Covid vaccines over half-term at a local vaccination site to get protection ahead of winter, with more children expected to come forward for vaccines at schools next week.’
And Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said it is vital children carry on testing and getting vaccines in order ‘make sure we can enjoy’ Christmas.
He said: ‘As we start the countdown to Christmas, testing regularly and getting vaccinated is the best thing we can all do to protect education and make sure we can enjoy the best of the season — whether that’s the school nativity or the family gathering over the holidays.
‘That’s why I want to encourage every young person in secondary school or college to take a test before you return to the classroom next week.
‘We have come so far in our fight against this virus, and now every single test and every single jab puts another brick in our wall of defence.’
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: ‘We should commend and thank young people for taking these regular tests, which are such a vital part of our defences against Covid, alongside vaccination and other behaviours which help keep us all safe – such as keeping areas well ventilated and keeping a distance from each other, particularly where spaces are crowded.
‘Many of you will have tests at home so please do use those before ordering new ones and make sure to report the results.
‘Today I am calling on all children to help themselves and each other by getting tested before going back to the classroom so that we can stop the infection in its tracks and keep as many children in the classroom as possible, continuing their education and developing their futures.
‘I want to once again thank all our teachers and those who work in schools who are working so hard to help keep children safe.’