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There have been more than 319,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far in the UK and over 41,000 people have died, government figures show. However, these numbers include only people tested, and the actual death toll is higher.

Latest ONS figures show the death certificates of 56,357 people who died before 7 August mentioned coronavirus. These people may not have been tested for the virus.

According to the ONS report there were more than 63,000 deaths over and above the expected number at this point in the year.

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Rise in new cases amid concern over hotspots

Daily confirmed cases are starting to edge up again after they fell significantly from their April peak as a result of lockdown restrictions imposed a month earlier.

In July, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said the government needed to “squeeze that brake pedal” and postponed the easing of some lockdown rules in England.

However, businesses such as bowling alleys, soft play centres and casinos reopened at the weekend, along with permission for beauty treatments such as eyebrow threading, facials and make-up. The easing also allowed small wedding receptions and live indoor performances to resume.

On Monday, the government said there had been 713 newly confirmed cases.

However, the number of tests being carried out is also increasing – and these tests are targeted at areas where infection rates are highest.

As BBC health correspondent Nick Triggle points out, if you are testing more, you are likely to find more cases.

If you look at the percentage of tests coming back positive, the rise in cases becomes marginal, once daily fluctuations are taken into account, he says.

Separate data released from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which surveys a sample of households in England for current infection – not including care homes or hospitals – also suggests that coronavirus cases are stable across most of England.

The UK does, however, currently have a number of local hotspots of the virus, which was first confirmed in the UK in January.

Last week Newark and Sherwood was added to the list of places, many in the north-west of the country, where lockdown measures have been re-introduced. Eden in Cumbria was removed.

In Scotland, a local lockdown has been imposed in Aberdeen.

A Covid-19 watchlist is produced by Public Health England, based on an assessment of incidence rates, and other indicators such as trends in testing, healthcare activity and deaths.

Decline in daily deaths

While the number of new confirmed cases of coronavirus is rising again, government-announced deaths have continued to fall since a peak in mid-April.

On Monday the government reported just three further deaths – all in England – with no deaths recorded in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Last week the government’s death toll in England was reduced by 5,340 following a review of the way coronavirus deaths are counted.

New rules mean deaths anywhere in the UK are included in the coronavirus total only if they occurred within 28 days of a positive test. Previously in England, all deaths after a positive test were included.

New weekly totals giving the number of deaths in England within 60 days of a positive test will also be released. Deaths occurring after this time will also be added to the total if Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate.

England has seen the majority of UK deaths from Covid-19. Using the 28-day cut-off, there have been just under 37,000.

Overall death toll could be more than 60,000

When looking at the overall death toll from coronavirus, official figures count such deaths in three different ways.

Government figures count people who tested positive for coronavirus and died within 28 days.

But the ONS publishes weekly updates using two other measures.

The first includes all deaths where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate, even if the person had not been tested for the virus. Today’s figures suggests there had been more than 56,000 deaths by 7 August.

The ONS also looks at all UK deaths over and above the number usually expected for the time of year – known as excess deaths. The latest figures for this measure show the death toll was below 64,000 by 7 August.

In recent weeks, figures used in this third measure have been falling.

This is because the number of deaths from all causes registered in a single week – including coronavirus – has now stayed below the five-year average for eight weeks in a row.

Of the deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to 7 August, 152 involved coronavirus, or just 1.7% of the total of 8,945.

Figures released by the ONS at the end of July show that England had the highest levels of excess deaths in Europe between the end of February and the middle of June.

Some areas of Spain and Italy were harder hit than UK cities. But ONS analysis shows the epidemic in the UK was more widespread than in other countries. Scotland saw the third highest death rate in Europe – behind England and Spain. Wales was in fifth place and Northern Ireland in eighth.

The government has argued it is too soon to make definitive international comparisons but, as the impact of the first wave becomes clear in many countries, analysis is beginning to suggest the UK has been the hardest hit of the leading G7 nations.

What is the R number in the UK?

The “R number” is the average number of people an infected person will pass the disease on to.

If R is below one, then the number of people contracting the disease will fall; if it is above one, the number will grow.

The current estimate by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, known as Sage, for the R number across the whole of the UK is between 0.8 and 1.0 as of 14 August.

The estimate for England is between 0.8 and 1.0, while for Scotland it is between 0.6 and 1.0. The estimate for Wales is 0.7-0.9.

In Northern Ireland, it is between 1.2 and 2.0.

While the government has said in the past that the R number is one of the most important factors in deciding when lockdown measures can be eased, it now says these estimates do not fully represent current infection levels.

Sage says it is no longer confident R is below 1 in England. It says models using testing data, rather than epidemiological data such as hospital admissions, to predict transmission rates are suggesting higher values for R and these are likely to be reflected in the coming weeks.

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