November 30, 2021

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Coronavirus: UK announces more COVID-19 deaths

Coronavirus: UK announces more COVID-19 deaths
The UK has recorded another 363 hospital deaths from COVID-19 today, taking the official total among people who have tested positive to 35,704.NHS England said 166 people had died in its hospitals, while a further 197 people died in the other three nations and in care homes, private homes elsewhere in the community.Another 2,472 people…

The UK has recorded another 363 hospital deaths from COVID-19 today, taking the official total among people who have tested positive to 35,704.

NHS England said 166 people had died in its hospitals, while a further 197 people died in the other three nations and in care homes, private homes elsewhere in the community.

Another 2,472 people have been diagnosed with the virus today, taking the total number of cases to 248,293 – the fifth highest in the world. The government said it had done 177,216 tests in the last 24 hours.

There are 9,953 COVID-19 patients currently in hospitals and 637 were admitted on Monday, May 18, which was down from 711 last Monday.

It comes as Public Health England testing data from yesterday shows that not a single case of COVID-19 have yet been diagnosed in London or the South East from swabs taken on Monday, May 18.   

The regions are the two most populated in the country and are home to a combined 18million people – almost a third of the British population. 

Officials have played down the numbers, suggesting that they may be the result of a technical hitch known to have happened over the weekend, and explaining that they will rise in the coming days as more results come back. The number should not be interpreted to mean the epidemic is tailing off, they said.

The numbers also showed that only 79 cases were diagnosed across the whole of England – this, too, will inevitably rise in the coming days as more people who were swabbed on Monday test positive. A total of 2,412 people yesterday received positive results from samples taken between May 13 and 18.

But the hopeful figure comes as the number of people catching the virus in Britain is believed to be falling rapidly.  Research by the University of Cambridge and Public Health England last week suggested that only 24 people each day are catching COVID-19 in London.

And another expert at the University of Oxford, Professor Carl Heneghan, said that the UK could be on track to hit zero new coronavirus deaths in June. Professor Heneghan, who has been following the statistics closely throughout the outbreak, said: ‘I think by the end of June we’ll be looking at the data and finding it difficult to find people with this illness, if current trends continue.’

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, used today’s Downing Street briefing to announce hundreds of millions of pounds of extra crisis funding for medium-sized charities and social enterprises, and said he was starting a taskforce to work out how to get sports and arts running again safely.

Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS, said the number of people in hospital is now lower than 10,000 ‘for the first time since March’ and confirmed that all data still points to a ‘consistently downwards’ trend for the outbreak, which is fizzling out.

In other coronavirus news:

  • The government may be planning to row back on plans to reopen schools on June 1, with some councils refusing to bow to pressure from Whitehall and Justice Minister Robert Buckland said this morning that ‘uniform’ reopening across the nationwide is not expected;
  • Superdrug has started selling a DIY antibody test for £69 so people can test to find out whether they have had COVID-19 in the past;
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed that at least 312 staff in the NHS and care homes are known to have died with COVID-19, many of whom were people from other countries;
  • More evidence is emerging of economic carnage as public debt is now higher than £2trillion, 7.41million people are off work, the average number of hours being worked has plummeted and the Institue for Fiscal Studies said the UK is heading for a ‘mega-recession’;
  • A member of the specialist government advisory group NERVTAG said the UK does not necessarily need to stick to the 2m (6’6″) social distancing rule, and other countries in Europe are using 1m (3ft);
  • Boris Johnson has promised the ‘test, track and trace’ system will be operational by June 1, in the shadow of an unsuccessful mid-May start date. 

Public Health England data has so far found only 79 new coronavirus cases out of specimens provided on May 18. This number will increase in future as more people receive their results

NHS England today said that the newly-announced deaths happened in its hospitals between March 24 and yesterday, May 19, and that five of them had been otherwise healthy before catching the coronavirus. 

Most of the fatalities happened in the Midlands (42), followed by North East & Yorkshire (37), East of England (32), North West (21), South East (17), London (13) and South West (4).   

It calculated that the crucial ‘R’ reproduction rate – the average number of people an infected patient passes the virus on to – has fallen to just 0.4 in the capital, with the number of new cases halving every 3.5 days. 

TWO METRE SOCIAL DISTANCING RULE ‘BASED ON FRAGILE EVIDENCE’ 

One of the top scientific advisers to the British Government said the two metre (6’6″) social distancing rule is based on ‘very fragile’ evidence.

People in the UK have been urged to stay at least 2m, or six-and-a-half feet, away from anyone who they don’t live with, to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19.

But the distance may be a non-scientific estimate that just caught on in countries around the world, as top researchers say there is not solid evidence to back it up.

Professor Robert Dingwall, a sociologist at Nottingham Trent University and a member of government advisory group NERVTAG (New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group) made the comments this morning.

He said that the World Health Organization and other countries in Europe had reduced this distance to one metre but the UK is persisting with the full 2m.

Professor Dingwall said on BBC Radio 4 today: ‘The World Health Organization recommends a one metre distance, Denmark has adopted it since the beginning of last week.

‘If you probe around the recommendations of distance in Europe you will find that a lot of countries have also gone for this really on the basis of a better understanding of the scientific evidence around the possible transmission of infection.’ 

Iain Duncan-Smith, a former Conservative Party Cabinet minister has also called for the rule to be relaxed, saying it will be impossible to maintain in pubs and restaurants. 

The Cambridge team estimated that 1.8million people in London (20 per cent) have already had coronavirus. 

They claimed between 10 and 53 people in the capital caught the virus on May 10, the day Boris Johnson announced a slight relaxation of some lockdown rules. 

At the peak of the capital’s crisis – calculated to be the same day lockdown was announced – 213,000 are thought to have caught the infection.

Meanwhile, the team’s modelling shows only one death occurs in every 160 cases, suggesting at the current rate, London’s daily death toll will drop to a consistent level of zero in three weeks.

At the start of the outbreak London was the worst affected part of the UK but the latest numbers suggest it is now ahead of every other area in terms of recovery and it could see all new cases eliminated by June. In contrast, the North East of England is recording 4,000 daily infections and has an R rate of 0.8, twice that of the capital.

One epidemiologist argued it is ‘extremely unlikely’ the number of new cases in London is as low as 24.

The data – provided to a sub-committee of the Government’s SAGE panel of experts – sparked hopes that the easing of strict measures could be accelerated. 

Today’s statistics come after separate data from the Office for National Statistics, National Records Scotland and NISRA, the Northern Irish statistical agency, suggested yesterday that at least 44,000 people had died by the middle of last week.

That number includes everyone who had COVID-19 or ‘novel coronavirus’ mentioned on their death certificate, whether they got tested for it or not. The Department of Health only counts people who test positive. 

Britain’s status as the worst-hit country in Europe is underlined by the figures, with Italy so far recording 32,000 deaths, by comparison. Only the US has recorded more deaths, with 92,000 victims.

ONS data, which only covers England and Wales, confirmed 39,071 people had died with the coronavirus in all settings by May 8. The figures include patients whose death was suspected to be from COVID-19, as well as those whose were confirmed.

At least 1,211 further people were known to have died in English hospitals between May 9 and May 17, according to the NHS, taking the England and Wales total to 40,282.

In addition, National Records of Scotland – the equivalent of the ONS north of the border – counted 3,213 deaths by May 10, and Northern Ireland’s Statistics Agency, NISRA, added 599 up to May 13.  

This took the total for the UK to at least 44,094. But the actual number, taking into account more recent counts from Scotland and Northern Ireland, will be even higher.

The ONS revealed that excess deaths – the number of people who have died above the average amount expected for this time of year – has now almost hit 55,000. That figure includes direct and indirect victims of COVID-19, such as people who may have missed medical treatment because hospitals were overloaded.  

EARLIER LOCKDOWN ‘COULD HAVE SAVED 30,000 LIVES’

Triggering lockdown a week earlier could have saved the lives of more than 30,000 people in the UK, according to a shock study.

The staggering claim was made by a mathematical sciences expert who predicted how different scenarios could have affected the progress of the outbreak in Britain.

He suggests that starting the lockdown, which has now been going for eight weeks, a week earlier on March 16 could have limited the number of deaths to 11,200.

Data yesterday confirmed at least 44,000 people had died with COVID-19 across the UK by mid-May, with the death toll set to keep rising in coming weeks. 

Detailed statistics show that more than 44,000 people have already died with COVID-19 in the UK, but this study from the University of Southampton suggests that number could have been kept to 11,200 if lockdown was introduced earlier

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent the country into lockdown on March 23, 58 days ago, banning people from meeting up with others or making unnecessary trips out of the home.

Britain was one of the last countries in Europe to put the rules in place – Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, France, Austria, Spain and Italy had done it days or weeks earlier.

Dr John Dagpunar, from the University of Southampton, suggests the UK’s decision came too late and thousands of people have died as a result. 

He said in his paper ‘literally, each day’s delay in starting lockdown can result in thousands of extra deaths… it does pose the question as to why lockdown did not occur earlier?’  

 Dr Dagpunar’s study considered the number of people infected with the virus, its rate of reproduction, hospital bed and staff capacity, and the proportion of patients who die, among other factors.

If lockdown had been started a week earlier, on March 16, the model suggested, there could have been a ‘very large reduction’ in deaths, limiting them to around 11,200.

The virus would have infected four per cent less of the population in this scenario (two per cent compared to six per cent), the study said, and the demand for hospital beds would have been lower. 

Dr Dagpunar said: ‘In hindsight [this] clearly illustrates that earlier action was needed and would have saved many lives.’ 

Although the number of people who have died in the UK’s outbreak is still rising and higher than in any other European country, the weekly deaths are now consistently coming down in hospitals.

This means the virus is at much lower levels in the community – there are thought to be somewhere between 100 and 1,000 infected people for every one person who dies. 

Fewer deaths and infected patients are crucial for Britain’s ability to move out of lockdown. It has now been 10 days since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that people could spend as much time outdoors as they wanted.

And within the next 10 days the government will be expected to decide whether to further loosen restrictions from June 1. 

In his public address on May 10, Mr Johnson suggested that if there were encouraging signs of a shrinking outbreak, the second phase of lockdown loosening could start on June 1.

This could include the partial reopening of some schools and non-essential shops, such as clothing stores or sports shops, which are currently required to stay closed. Social distancing will have to remain in place.

Today’s sunny weather, however, has drawn thousands to beaches and beauty spots and triggered concerns that people are flouting social distancing rules and getting too close to strangers in public. 

Government rules now allow people to travel to spend time outdoors at parks and beaches, and they can spend as long as they want outdoors, sunbathe and have picnics, as long as they stay away from people they don’t live with. 

Sunbathers made the most of their new-found freedom following the easing of lockdown restrictions as London’s St James’s Park saw a high of 79.16F (26.2C) on Tuesday – beating 2020’s previous top temperature of 78.8F (26C) set last month.

The sunshine is set to continue for most of the UK on Wednesday, with the mercury expected to hit 82F (28C).

Pictures of residents and tourists flocking to beaches in Southend, Bournemouth, Margate and Brighton sparked backlash.

LBC’s Charlotte Sullivan tweeted: ‘More people arriving in Southend today. It almost looks like any other hot day here apart from the dots on the floor to mark out where to stand in the queue for ice creams.

‘One man told me “it’s madness, it’s like everyone’s forgotten about coronavirus”’.

Another social media user posted: ‘The state of Southend beach today like that is ridiculous, how have people not been told to leave?’

A third added: ‘Southend beach at lunchtime on what’s heading for the hottest day of the year. Technically you’re allowed to travel somewhere and to sunbathe – but this is the result when so many choose the same place…’  

Southend beach was absolutely packed this afternoon as sun-worshipping Britons turned out to soak up the rays on what is predicted to be the hottest day of the year so far, according to the Met Office

It is the hottest day in the UK so far this year and the masses were out in force with deck chairs and towels on the beach 

Roads and car parks were crammed full as parking restrictions were lifted several days ago and thousands of people flocked to Sandbanks in Poole, Dorset, on the hottest day of the year so far 

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