Daily Covid cases in the UK dropped below 100,000 for the first time in weeks today as infections fell for the ninth day in a row — but SAGE modellers are already warning of an ‘exit wave’ this summer.
Another 99,652 Britons tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hours, according to Government dashboard data, marking a 44 per cent fall on the figure last week.
Covid cases are now falling in every region of England and all four home nations in another sign that the Omicron wave is on its way out.
Daily hospital admissions have also remained flat with 2,423 new admissions on January 10, the latest date with data, which was down by less than a per cent on the previous week.
Sources say ministers intend to scrap Covid passports and widespread WFH guidance in England when Plan B restrictions are reviewed at the end of the month, with the promising numbers making the curbs ‘hard to justify’.
Daily Covid deaths — which are a lagging indicator — have been creeping up for several weeks.Another 270 were registered today in a 17 per cent weekly rise.
But rising immunity and the intrinsically milder Omicron variant mean there are five times fewer fatalities now compared to the second wave last January.
Despite the encouraging statistics, official modelling has warned there could be a rebound in Covid cases and hospitalisations this summer.
In a paper submitted to the Government’s scientific advisory group (SAGE) last week, the team at Warwick University projected up to 10,000 daily admissions in an absolute worst-case scenario.
The modellers admit that they cannot predict the summer wave ‘with any certainty’ but in every circumstance forecasted, there is ‘an “exit” wave due to increased mixing and waning vaccine immunity’.
They add: ‘Precise timing and magnitude of this exit wave is highly dependent on both population behaviour and the scale of the current wave and cannot be predicted with any certainty.’
UK Health Security Agency figures showed Covid cases were falling in 87 per cent of England’s areas last week, or 129 out of 149 local authorities. For comparison, in the previous seven-day spell (left) cases were only falling in 15 council areas
Data from the Government’s shows that, in England, daily infections have dropped nationwide week-on-week for the last seven days.
Infections were only rising in the North East, but latest Government figures show they are now mirroring the rest of the country.
Fascinating maps show how the virus is burning itself out nationally, with cases falling in roughly 87 per cent of local authorities in the last week.
The North East had become an Omicron hotspot in recent weeks after the outbreak migrated north, and it is home to seven of the 10 local authorities with the biggest outbreaks.
One in 40 people (2.6 per cent) living in the region tested positive in the most recent week, higher than any other point in the pandemic.
A record 3.7million people were infected with Covid on any day last week in England — but cases were slowing nationally, the country’s gold-standard Office for National Statistics’ surveillance study has found
Areas in the North West, North East and Yorkshire were hit hardest by the new variant last week as it began to burn itself out in London and the south
The percentage of people who were carrying Covid in the UK home nations in the week to January 6
NORTH EAST: Pictured above is the Covid infection rate in the North East, showing its cases have started to peak
NORTH EAST: The above shows the number of patients being admitted to hospital with Covid every day. In the region it is now at about the same level as it was last winter
NORTH EAST: The above shows the number of Covid patients in hospital beds in the region. There are early signs this may be plateauing at a lower level than the previous winter
NORTH EAST: And above is the number of patients with Covid on mechanical ventilator beds. This has not risen in a sign Omicron is milder than its predecessors
Record 4.3MILLION Brits had Covid last week, ONS surveillance shows
A record 4.3million Britons were thought to have been carrying Covid last week.
Latest Office for National Statistics surveillance shows that areas in the North West, North East and Yorkshire were hit hardest by the new variant as it began to burn itself out in London and the south.
More than 10 per cent of people tested positive in the seven days to January 6 in the worst-affected places, including Bury, the Wirral, West Lancashire, Burnley, Rochdale and Solihull.
An interactive map was published as part of the weekly report, which found infections hit new highs in all four home nations.
One in 15 people were estimated to have been infectious on any given day last week in England, while the rate was one in 20 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Even though infections continued to grow in the most recent week, the 14 per cent rise is the smallest increase since Omicron became dominant at the start of December.
The slowing down in infections is in line with a growing body of evidence showing the Omicron wave is subsiding.
More up-to-date Government dashboard data shows that cases are now falling in every country in the UK and every region of England. Daily admissions also appear to have plateaued across Britain.
England is now preparing to ease the restrictions that were brought in to fight Omicron, according to reports.
The Health Secretary is said to have told MPs yesterday that vaccine passports could be scrapped by the end of this month, and ministers are considering ditching work from home guidance. Both are set to be reviewed on January 26.
Self-isolation will be cut to five days on Monday for vaccinated people who test positive, with Sajid Javid saying the move will make the UK the ‘freest in Europe’.
UK Health Security Agency scientists calculate the infection rate across England’s regions using the number of positive swabs recorded over the previous seven days.
Its latest figures, up to January 8, show that cases are now falling in all region’s day-on-day, and in five of them — the East Midlands, East of England, London, North West and South East — they are falling week-on-week.
The North East (2,572.4) is still the country’s Covid hotspot, recording the most cases per 100,000 people, but they are now starting to point downwards.
The second-highest infection rate was in the North West (2,132.6), followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (1,977.5) and the West Midlands (1,785.6).
At the other end of the scale was the South West (1,270.2), the South East (1,374.1) and the East of England (1,460.7). London had the sixth highest infection rate (1,526.5).
In a sign the North East’s drop is genuine and not down to a change in testing its PCR positivity rate — the proportion of swabs that detect the virus — has also started to fall.
Infection statistics relate to the period before testing rules were changed so that Britons who test positive using a lateral flow no longer need to get a confirmatory PCR. But the figures were already dropping before then.
Fewer Covid tests were also carried out over the festive period, skewing official numbers slightly.
But swabbing rates have now picked up to levels seen before Christmas, giving some of the country’s leading experts confidence that the fall in cases is genuine.
Hospitalisations across the North East are yet to drop having reached 390 admissions a day, nearing last winter’s peak of 430.
But the number of Covid patients in hospital has flattened out in recent days at 3,000 which is around four-fifths of the previous peak, while the numbers on mechanical ventilator beds have barely risen.
The UK Health Security Agency’s weekly estimate of the R rate today was between 1.1 and 1.5, meaning it has fallen slightly. Last week health chiefs argued that it was at least 1.2.
But in London the reproduction rate could be as low as 0.7, the team concluded.
If the figure is below one, it means infections are shrinking. The R number reflects the average amount of people every infected patient passes the virus on to.
The R rate is, however, a lagging indicator and does not reflect the situation currently. Instead, it paints a clearer picture on how quickly the virus was spreading three weeks ago.
Ministers once put the R rate at the heart of their Covid battle plan. But it is now less crucial because experts care more about hospitalisation and death rates, given the country’s massively successful vaccination roll-out.
At a meeting with Tory MPs yesterday, Mr Javid hailed the ‘encouraging signs’ but warned that hospitals remained under ‘significant pressure’, The Times reports.
Currently, people in England need to show proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow to enter large events and nightclubs.
A Whitehall source told the paper: ‘There was always a very high threshold for the policy and it looks increasingly likely in a couple of weeks that threshold won’t be met. The way cases are going it will be hard to justify renewing.’
The UK Government faced its biggest Tory revolt since the start of the pandemic over the introduction of Plan B measures last month, with more than 100 Conservatives voting against them.
The PM’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost dramatically resigned in protest over the rollout of the curbs. Yesterday he slammed the ‘Covid theatre’ of masks and passes, and called lockdown a ‘serious mistake’.
The Times reports that it is unlikely that Covid passes will be renewed if the Department of Health argues that it is no longer needed.
Alicia Kearns, the MP for Rutland and Melton, yesterday pressed the Health Secretary to commit ‘to dropping domestic certification at the earliest possible opportunity’.