The age of the office is over – the future lies in Britain’s commuter towns

“Clearly the idea of corporate space, of the company building, is in crisis. As for office work, I sense the future lies with small towns and suburban villages, those not about to be wrecked by Robert Jenrick’s Los Angeles-style planning changes. It lies in places commuters call home, where they can replace the ties of office with those of neighbourhood. The shift may be no more than 25%, but in demography a trend is a revolution.” [Owl emphasis]

Simon Jenkins 

Is the office dead? Not an office, which everyone needs, but “the office”, the institution, the corporate HQ, the great overhead in the sky. Just as once the farm gave way to the factory and the factory to the desk, so technology transforms the nature of work. At the turn of the 21st century the digital revolution shrank offices to tiny screens. From then on offices have lived on borrowed time. Coronavirus has called their bluff. But has bluff also been called on the office’s sovereign domain, the city centre?

When in March Boris Johnson ordered Britons to “stay at home”, I heard a death-knell sound. So shocking was this fear-based lockdown that a new Morgan Stanley survey shows that even now only 34% of British office workers have gone back to work. This compares with 76% in Italy and 83% in France.

Two weeks ago Johnson abruptly changed his mind and told office workers to report for duty. Few have obeyed. Walk through London’s Canary Wharf, Manchester’s Deansgate or Birmingham’s Colmore Row, and you see ghost cities. Offices stand vacant, shops, pubs and cafes closed and even boarded up. Come September, some workers will return, but I can find no expert who expects them in anything like their previous numbers.

In his classic biography of the Cambridgeshire village of Foxton, The Common Stream, Rowland Parker described its many traumas. They included invading Saxons, the Black Death and, most recently, the arrival of combine harvesters in the 1920s. The machines slashed the need for farm labour. The village emptied. Rural vitality was devastated.

Since then Foxton has recovered as a dormitory suburb for office workers in Cambridge and even London. But does it now face another change, that of home-working? Across Britain there must be many people wondering if they really want to fight their way to a city office block when their home can be their office. Morgan Stanley reports a mere 18% of European office workers wanting to return to an office five days a week. Fulltime home working is estimated to raise productivity by more than 16 days over a full year.

The media is awash in studies declaring that offices are good for us after all. They promote social diversity and informal contacts, offering relief from relationship claustrophobia in “getting out of the house”. Management ideology has long identified “the company” with its headquarters, its physical presence and hierarchy. The New Scientist reports the boss of Microsoft worrying that unmonitored home working will eat into the “social capital” built up in an office environment. Zoom cannot replace the gossip of “those two minutes before and after” a meeting. We know that from TV’s The Office.

None the less, office workers seem certain to vote with their feet. As a Birmingham lawyer told the Guardian, “There is absolutely no reason for us to be in this office every day – I can do my job perfectly well from anywhere.” He spoke for millions. Hence the three-quarters of American CFOs now accepting that they must introduce remote working.

How drastic the impact on city business districts will be is uncertain. Those in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds have been planned for decades on an assumption of rising office demand. The LSE cities expert Prof Tony Travers says that for them, “It’s like death, too frightening to predict. But a conservative guess might be that half of workers opt for some form of remote working, perhaps for half their time.” That is a roughly 25% cut in traditional office occupancy.

Emptying city centres of a quarter of their office workers would be commercially devastating. It would wipe out the profit margins of the shops, cafes and pubs that depend on them. Rents would plummet on newly emergent office blocks, lacking as they do the adaptability of the old Victorian streets they replace. Towers will blight townscapes as corporate dinosaurs.

Commuting has come to be seen as an unnecessary health hazard. A worker visiting his or her office will be like going shopping, an occasional discretionary activity. Yes, we will value the human contact with workplace friends, clients and associates, but not 9-to-5, five days a week. This treadmill was the ethos of Dickens’ factory work carried into the office. It is out of date.

This need not be bad news for cities. The decline in offices will leave more space for housing. Cultural and leisure activities will recover. Historic quarters – if conserved – will attract the creative industries that are seen as holding the key to modern city economies, industries that thrive on urban concentration. I was intrigued by Angus Thirlwell of the Hotel Chocolat chain bewailing to the BBC the fate of his big city outlets, while lauding his successes in Cheltenham, St Albans, Stamford and Harrogate. These are the new work hubs. If I was in the property game, I would buy anywhere with a cathedral.

Clearly the idea of corporate space, of the company building, is in crisis. As for office work, I sense the future lies with small towns and suburban villages, those not about to be wrecked by Robert Jenrick’s Los Angeles-style planning changes. It lies in places commuters call home, where they can replace the ties of office with those of neighbourhood. The shift may be no more than 25%, but in demography a trend is a revolution.

• Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist

Government quietly drops 1.3m Covid tests from England tally

The government has quietly removed 1.3m coronavirus tests from its data because of double counting, raising fresh questions about the accuracy of the testing figures.

Caelainn Barr 

In the government’s daily coronavirus update on Wednesday, it announced it had lowered the figure for “tests made available” by about 10% and discontinued the metric.

An update on the page read: “An adjustment of -1,308,071 has been made to the historic data for the ‘tests made available’ metric. The adjustments have been made as a result of more accurate data collection and reporting processes recently being adopted within pillar 2.”

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the changes affected data reported between 14 May and 12 August. It said there had been “a double-counting of test kits that had been dispatched”, “which had not been removed from the lab’s processed data”.

The changes were made after it was discovered fewer in-person pillar 2 tests had been carried out than originally reported, while more tests had been sent to NHS trusts and care homes. The problem was acknowledged by the DHSC on 6 July but the tests were removed from the data on 12 August.

Pillar 2 tests involve all testing done outside hospitals through commercial companies. For example, swab tests carried out at satellite testing centres, such as care homes, and home swab testing kits delivered by post.

Justin Madders, the shadow health minister, said the data on testing had been “shambolic” for months.

“To now retrospectively adjust the testing figures by 1.3m overnight – without explanation – is the latest in a long line of chaotic failings by the government on testing,” he said.

“How can we be confident that testing and tracing is working properly when basic data on the number of tests is obviously so flawed? Ministers need to get a grip of this as a matter of urgency.”

The government has previously been reprimanded for misleading the public with its testing figures. Concerns were raised after a target of 100,000 tests per day was met by adding thousands of mail-out tests to the country’s testing capacity figures at the end of April.

In a letter to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, in June, the head of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, said: “The aim seems to be to show the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding.”

The Liberal Democrat health, wellbeing and social care spokesperson, Munira Wilson, said: “With so many families torn apart by this pandemic, the government must recognise the fall in public trust in their handling of the crisis.

“To avoid questions of fiddling the numbers, they must be explicitly transparent in how they have changed the data and how they will rapidly build testing capacity.

“Ultimately, we need an immediate independent inquiry so lessons can be learned more systematically.”

The revised test count comes after up to 750,000 unused coronavirus testing kits manufactured by the diagnostics company Randox were recalled from care homes and individuals because of concerns about safety standards.

The recall was ordered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the UK government instructed care homes and members of the public to immediately stop using Randox testing kits in mid-July amid concerns over their sterility.

Allyson Pollock, a clinical professor of public health at Newcastle University, said: “The government needs to make clear what they mean by an adjustment and why the change has taken place. There are also big questions that should be asked about the Randox contract, and the one with Deloitte is still not published, we should really press for that.”

A DHSC spokesperson said: “In July we became aware of an overcounting issue which we publicly and transparently acknowledged and have since sought to clarify these figures subsequently.

“This does not change the fact that we have rapidly built, from scratch, the largest diagnostic testing industry in British history, with over 13 million tests delivered, and capacity to test 300,000 every day.”


England’s Covid contact-tracing app will reach 70% of those at risk

The re-designed NHS contact-tracing app, which begins trials in the Isle of Wight, will correctly identify seven out of 10 people who spend more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of another app user who has tested positive for coronavirus and warn them to self-isolate.

Sarah Boseley 

The new app has been designed in collaboration with Google, Apple and other tech companies so that it works with 99% of phones. It no longer has the major failing of the original which did not work with iPhones.

But it will struggle to compute the precise 2-metre boundary that is considered to be a safe distance from someone with the virus. Many people will be told they should self-isolate even though they spent 15 minutes just slightly further away – for instance 2.1 metres.

The designers of the app are understood to believe, from some 100,000 simulations, that this margin of error is acceptable, on the basis that people who were that close may still be at risk.

The trial which started on the Isle of Wight on Thursday will next week be extended to the London borough of Newham, to test its performance in one of the most diverse populations in the country. It will also be offered to NHS volunteer responders across England.

The new app is not a cut-down version of failed earlier attempts, but has more features, say government sources, who hope it will win the public’s trust and confidence. The contact-tracing element will depend on substantial numbers of people downloading it.

“It’s really important that we make it as easy as possible for everyone to engage with NHS test and trace. By launching an app that supports our integrated, localised approach to NHS test and trace, anyone with a smartphone will be able to find out if they are at risk of having caught the virus, quickly and easily order a test, and access the right guidance and advice,” said Dido Harding, executive chair of the NHS test and trace programme.

Simon Thompson, managing director of the app, said it was vital to controlling the spread of coronavirus and designed to give people maximum freedom at minimum risk.

“We have worked with some of the most innovative organisations in the world, such as Apple, Google, scientists from the Alan Turing Institute and Oxford University and governments across the world to come up with a state-of-the-art product which works to protect people everyday. It’s like NHS test and trace in your pocket,” he said.

“By giving access to the Isle of Wight, Newham and NHS volunteers first we can make this app even better before rolling out nationwide so the rest of the nation can benefit.”

The app will track the virus, not people, the government insists, anxious to avoid issues over data privacy. User data will not be centralised, as was the earlier plan, but will stay in the phone and can be deleted at any time. People using the app will get a warning to self-isolate if they have been near another app user with coronavirus, but they will not be contacted or monitored for their compliance.

If the contact is somebody in their family or at work, however, it is likely they will separately get a call or a visit from the contact tracing teams.

“There is no silver bullet when it comes to tackling coronavirus,” said Harding. “The app is a great step forward and will complement all of the work we are doing with local areas across the country to reach more people in their communities and work towards our vision of helping more people get back to the most normal life possible at the lowest risk.”

The app will also allow owners of venues such as pubs and restaurants to obtain and print a QR code that app users can scan on their phones when they visit. If there is subsequently an outbreak at the venue, app users can be alerted.

There is also a symptom checker, which will alert the user to self-isolate if they are suffering from one of the major known four symptoms of Covid-19, and a countdown function and advice for those told to self-isolate.

The latest test and trace data showed the service reached 79% of all those who tested positive, and 83.4% of their contacts where contact details were provided. The government says that is “in line with the recognised metric of success for contact tracing services across the world”.

However, critics say the system needs to do better if it is to keep the virus in check ahead of schools going back and then the winter months when people will socialise indoors.

Why does No 10 want to ‘devolve’ local councils just as they are needed most? 

“…the great disrupters digging No 10 into ever deeper holes are still at it with pickaxe and shovel. What a time to launch a colossal centralising reorganisation of local government, but that’s what next month’s white paper will do, under the misleading rubric of “devolution”. The intent is to force unitary councils everywhere, sweeping away the district councils beneath them…..”

John Hart says “I will not lead a charge” [towards unitary authorities] but will he dare to oppose? Good way to turn Devon back to Blue and get rid of all these pesky Independent and Libdem administrations! – Owl

Polly Toynbee 

Today it’s A-level maladministration, but every day some new failure shames this government beset with epochal crises. Abysmal handling of Covid-19 casts England as having the highest excess deaths in Europe, and the UK as suffering the deepest recession in the G7, while Brexit still looms.

That’s enough to busy this cabinet of incompetents. Yet the great disrupters digging No 10 into ever deeper holes are still at it with pickaxe and shovel. What a time to launch a colossal centralising reorganisation of local government, but that’s what next month’s white paper will do, under the misleading rubric of “devolution”. The intent is to force unitary councils everywhere, sweeping away the district councils beneath them: it looks neat – but it’s devoid of evidence that another great upheaval does anything but disrupt, cost money and distract council officials who are already overstretched coping with Covid rather better than Whitehall is.

District councils of all hues are putting up a fight. Why No 10 would choose this moment to rile battalions of Tory councillors, backed by their Tory MPs, is a mystery to observers. As the London School of Economics’ Prof Tony Travers reminds me, all local government reorganisations favour the party in power. This one sweeps away irritating Labour and Liberal Democrat urban district blobs holding their forts against a sea of blue county councils. Norwich, Leicester, Oxford and scores more towns and cities will put up a fight not to be swallowed into Torydom. Green- and Lib-Dem-controlled Lewes will never go quietly into the great East Sussex blue. The government is starting with North Yorkshire – but don’t expect yellow York or red Scarborough to kowtow. Nor will many Tory districts agree to be swallowed into the whales of their bigger counties.

Large sums are being squandered by districts and county councils hiring expensive consultancies to write opposing reports proving which is most efficient. Some districts’ plans bid to divide counties into fewer larger districts, though this may also gerrymander red to blue. England, says Travers, suffers “an endless churn” of reorganisations.

A prime motor for all this is No 10’s contempt for local government. Odd timing, now Whitehall is forced into a belated climb-down over test and trace, finally admitting only local council public health expertise can do it. Look how, when push comes to shove, Whitehall summons top-quality local government chief executives to run their programmes: first Leeds’ chief executive, now Oldham’s excellent leaders are recruited to repair Whitehall’s failed test and trace. Every observer notes how the calibre of local government leaders and chief executives has soared in recent years, unlike this decadent cabinet.

Whitehall departments and their ministers are the ones that should be threatened with special measures, whether it’s the Home Office over Windrush, the Department of Education over abysmal lockdown failures and now A-levels, or the Department for Work and Pensions over universal-credit fiascos. Traducing local government is just a distracting blame-shift.

The lesson is not learned: local government will be plunged into turmoil, every officer reapplying for their job under new brass plates on No 10’s whim. Subtly done, the white paper will force councils themselves to come up with their own plans to turn unitary, or receive no growth funds.

There is no optimum size, but the ministry has proclaimed a random 300-400,000 population minimum (with optional decorations of tiny parish councils with no power or money). Since the abolition of the Audit Commission, there’s no evidence on efficacy.

The more local, the more trusted the politician. Satisfaction with councillors improves with their nearness: distant county councillors elected by 9,000 voters are less trusted than nearby districts, with councillors elected by 2,000.

This is all a deliberate distraction from the one great problem: councils are crippled by cuts and an inability to raise finance, rendering them powerless. But expect no plan for financial renewal – no local sales or income tax, no Amazon tax on deliveries, no hotel and tourism tax nor any reform of council tax and business rates.

The social care crisis may summon more cash, but don’t expect that to fall to councils’ control. The “devolution” white paper will not devolve things that matter most, as Whitehall departments’ plans ignore the shape of localities: the new NHS integrated care systems don’t match existing councils, let alone planned new ones. Nor do local enterprise partnerships, local enterprise boards, nor transport authorities, nor Homes England’s social housing plans. None of the necessary push for retraining, upskilling and a “kickstart” youth employment programme will be devolved from the iron grip of the DWP to councils who know their labour markets. Lack of joined-up government in the silos at the top is reflected in each department’s hotchpotch local delivery.

Councils, in their sorry plight, need a monster reorganisation. “Take back control” turns out to be only central control. One local government think-tanker sighs and asks, “But do people care?” Let’s see how much noise the beleaguered red and yellow districts make and how angry Tory MPs will be about their own disappearing districts. Already there are signs of something amiss: the transcript of the speech by the minister for local government, Simon Clarke, in which he set out his devolution plans, was mysteriously taken down from the government’s website soon after it was put there. Just possibly, another rapid retreat by No 10 beckons.

• Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist

Coronavirus: Backwards tracing puts skids on superspreaders

Baroness Harding, head of NHS Test and Track, and her advisers have a “Light Bulb” moment. – Owl

Tom Whipple, Science Editor | Chris Smyth 

Using “backwards contact tracing” to identify the source of a virus cluster could double the effectiveness of the test-and-trace service, scientists say.

By working out where people got infected as well as who they went on to infect, it may be possible to stop twice as many infections being passed on.

There is increasing evidence that the virus transmits through “superspreading events”, according to a paper co-authored with researchers who sit on the government’s Sage committee.

Conventional tracing seeks to identify cases and track down the people they met after they became infectious. This is the method being employed in the UK. Backwards tracing, used in some Asian countries, seeks to identify the person who infected that first case.

Baroness Harding of Winscombe, head of NHS Test and Trace, recently had a version tested in Leicester. She promised to begin backwards contact tracing but has not committed to a date amid concerns that it would prove too labour-intensive.

In the UK the R number is about 1. This means that on average each person infects one other. However, this is only an average. Most people infect no one while a few people infect many others. This, scientists say, makes the disease especially suitable for backwards contact tracing.

“We estimate that probably about 80 per cent of transmission comes from about 10 per cent of cases,” Adam Kucharski, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said.

This is a headache for public health officials because clusters can appear suddenly as a result of “superspreading events”. It is also an opportunity.

“If you have superspreading, if you identify a case, the chances are it will have come from an event or cluster that’s generated a lot of other cases too,” Dr Kucharski said. “If you’re just asking who those people infected you might get quite a few cases but if you’re asking where did they get infected that will often lead you to a sizable cluster.

“What a number of countries are doing — Japan and South Korea, for example — is really working very hard to identify people who are associated with large transmission events that can give you a disproportionate effect.”

Dr Kucharski has co-authored a paper with colleagues at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, including Graham Medley, who sits on the Sage committee. It estimates that if the test-and-trace system were able to include backwards tracing there could be dramatic benefits. “Backward tracing increases this maximum number of traceable individuals by a factor of two to three,” they write in a paper published online before peer review.

At the moment, contact tracers only ask infected people about their movements on the two days before they got ill. Backwards contact tracing means asking them about the previous 14 days, taking up much more of tracers’ time. It had been hoped that infections could be driven down before beginning this strategy. In Leicester, the method is credited with helping to control infection rates, but has been given less importance nationally.

NHS Test and Trace is expected to launch a scaled-back version of its troubled coronavirus app today. The Times revealed last week that after the failure of trials of automated contact tracing the app has been changed to a source of personalised information, including infection levels in local areas.

Officials insist that the app will still contain some element of contact tracing, such as telling people that they have been near someone who later tested positive. But the Bluetooth signalling which shows that phones have been near each other is not yet trusted on its own as a basis for instructing people to isolate for two weeks. Instead Test and Trace will continue to rely on human contact tracers to decide.

However, Professor Christophe Fraser, a scientific adviser to the Department of Health, told the BBC: “We need the app to help stop transmission by tracing close-proximity contacts as quickly and as comprehensively as possible, capturing those contacts we don’t know or don’t remember meeting.

“The app should enable us to return to more normal daily activities with the reassurance that our contacts can be rapidly and anonymously notified if we get infected.”

Coronavirus tracked: the latest figures as countries reopen – all you need to know – Owl!

The Financial Times is making key coronavirus coverage free to read to keep everyone informed during this extraordinary crisis. This is one such article.

FT Visual & Data Journalism team yesterday (12 August) 

The human cost of coronavirus has continued to mount, with more than 20.2m cases confirmed globally and more than 733,800 people known to have died.

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic in March and it has spread to more than 200 countries, with severe public health and economic consequences. This page provides an up-to-date visual narrative of the spread of Covid-19, so please check back regularly because we are refreshing it with new graphics and features as the story evolves.


  • July 29: Links added to pandemic crisis economic recovery tracker
  • May 6: Links added to epidemic trajectory and government response interactive graphics to replace static charts
  • May 5: All charts now include deaths away from hospitals where reported
  • April 29: Excess mortality charts added, showing that official Covid-19 death counts may significantly underestimate the pandemic’s true toll
Surge in Latin America means global daily death toll on the rise once again. Streamgraph and stacked column charts, showing regional daily deaths of patients diagnosed with coronavirus

Latin America is the current epicentre of the pandemic, with the region accounting for almost half of all deaths each day. This has been fuelled by a surge in Covid-19 fatalities in Brazil, Mexico and several other countries in Central and South America.

Europe’s average count of coronavirus-related deaths overtook Asia’s in early March, with Italy, Spain and the UK becoming the global hotspots. From mid-April the focus shifted to the US, where the number of deaths has remained consistently high, with the country currently accounting for 18 per cent of global fatalities, although the focus of the epidemic has shifted from the northeast to southern and western states.

Has your country’s epidemic peaked?

Explore the data here

This FT interactive tool allows you to explore data about the pandemic to better understand the disease’s spread and trajectory in countries around the world, and in US states.

Global coronavirus cases and deaths have climbed again since the beginning of June. The centre of the pandemic has shifted to Latin America with Panama, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia currently reporting the greatest number of daily deaths as a share of population.

Large emerging market countries such as Brazil, Russia, Mexico, India and South Africa are all showing fatalities on an upward trend.

New confirmed cases have also been increasing in the US, particularly in southern and western states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, and there are indications of a resurgence of cases in several EU countries.

Charts showing excess mortality during the coronavirus pandemic in selected countries. Data updated July 13.

There are concerns, however, that reported Covid-19 deaths are not capturing the true impact of coronavirus on mortality around the world. The FT has gathered and analysed data on excess mortality — the numbers of deaths over and above the historical average — across the globe, and has found that numbers of deaths in some countries are more than 50 per cent higher than usual. In many countries, these excess deaths exceed reported numbers of Covid-19 deaths by large margins.

Charts showing excess mortality during the coronavirus pandemic in selected regions and municipalities. Data updated July 13.

The picture is even starker in the hardest-hit cities and regions. In Ecuador’s Guayas province, there have been 10,000 more deaths than normal since the start of March, an increase of more than 300 per cent. London has seen overall deaths more than double, and New York City’s total death numbers since mid-March are more than four times the norm.

There are several different ways of comparing excess deaths figures between countries. In absolute numbers, more people than would usually be expected have died in the in the US than in any of the other countries for which recent all-cause mortality data is available.

Bar charts ranking countries on various measures of excess mortality during the coronavirus pandemic. Data updated July 13.

Adjusting for population size, the hardest hit countries are Peru and Ecuador, each of which have seen more than 1,000 excess deaths per million inhabitants. The two Latin American countries also have the highest excess percentage — excess deaths expressed as a share of normal deaths for the same period.

A live-updating heatmap graphic showing the relative stringency of selected countries’ Coronavirus lockdown measures, based on data from the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

Exiting lockdowns


From business closures to movement restrictions, some countries’ policies show first signs of easing. Follow the changes here using our interactive tool. 

As Covid-19 spread beyond China, governments responded by implementing containment measures with varying degrees of restriction. Researchers at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government have compiled data on a range of government response measures, such as school and workplace closures and restrictions on travel and gatherings, to create a stringency index.

East Asian countries including South Korea and Vietnam were the first to follow China in implementing widespread containment measures, with much of Europe, North America and Africa taking much longer to bring in tough measures.

India’s sudden implementation of a strict 21-day lockdown propelled it to the top of the index, making it the first country reported to have hit the index’s upper limit of 100 for more than a single day.

Help the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford university improve the stringency index used in this map by providing direct feedback.

Live-updating proportional symbol map of the world showing the cumulative death toll from Covid-19 by country. Data updated daily.
Live-updating proportional symbol map of Europe showing the cumulative death toll from Covid-19 by country. Data updated daily.

The death toll has now passed 100 in 31 European countries. The region currently only accounts for 5 per cent of new daily cases, well down from the peak of more than 80 per cent in March.

Proportional symbol map showing the total number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 in each US state, using data from the Covid Tracking Project.

Coronavirus has spread to all 50 states in the US. More than 5.1m cases and 155,900 deaths have been confirmed in the country.


Unless otherwise stated, national-level case and deaths data come from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Data for the US its territories come from the Covid Tracking Project.

UK deaths data after January 28 come from the UK Department of Health and Social Care, including its revised time series after March 6. On July 2, the UK’s methodology for reporting positive cases changed to remove 30,302 duplicates identified when combining testing data from hospitals (“pillar 1”) and private sector labs (“pillar 2”). Prior to this date, the UK case data are the sum of the revised totals published by Public Health EnglandPublic Health ScotlandPublic Health Wales, and the Northern Ireland Department of Health.

Deaths data for Spain before July 3 come from revisions published by the Spanish Ministry of Health. 209 deaths that could not be attributed to a specific date have been distributed uniformly across the remaining distribution.

The data for Chile, China, France, India as well as for the US states of New York and New Jersey have been adjusted to redistribute additional cases or deaths that were added after they occured in proportion to the previous distribution of deaths or cases in that jurisdiction.

The full excess mortality dataset used for this analysis is freely available for download on Github. It is compiled from data originally produced by official statistics agencies or civil registries in each of the jurisdictions mentioned. The full list of sources is also available on our Github repository.

Help us improve these charts: Please email with feedback, requests or tips about additional sources of national or municipal all-cause mortality data. Thank you to the many readers who have already helped us with feedback and suggestions. We continue to incorporate your suggestions and data every day. We will respond to as many people as possible.

Reporting, data analysis and graphics by Steven BernardDavid BloodJohn Burn-MurdochMax HarlowJoanna S KaoCaroline NevittAlan SmithMartin StabeCale Tilford and Aleksandra Wisniewska. Edited by Adrienne Klasa

Corrections: Due to a typographical error, the first paragraph of this story incorrectly stated the number of people who had died from Covid-19 for several hours on April 9. At the time, that figure should have read 87,741. Due to a typographical error, a map on this story temporarily showed an incorrect number of deaths from Covid-19 in Italy on May 14. At the time, that figure should have read 31,106.

The public won’t forgive the government’s secrecy over frontline coronavirus deaths

“Trust in the government has slipped back from the high levels seen at the start of the pandemic. Ministers will need to retain what remains in order to secure the public’s cooperation during what is likely to be a difficult winter. The quid pro quo must be more openness and less secrecy. Transparency cannot be a rule that applies only when it suits the government.”


The government’s decision to review the deaths of more than 620 health and social care workers in England and Wales who contracted coronavirus is a welcome move. But its intention not to disclose the findings of NHS medical examiners is a mistake.

As we reveal today, the priority will be learning the lessons locally. Of course, it is vital to maximise the chances of preventing more suffering and deaths during a pandemic which is far from over. But the government also has a duty to be straight with the public. Some workers are bound to have caught the virus outside their workplace. Yet the public has a right to know whether the deaths of some who risked everything to work tirelessly on the front line might have been avoided if the government had ensured adequate provision of personal protective equipment.

If individual cases shed light on how the government fell woefully short at the start of the crisis, ministers should not hide behind a self-serving code of confidentiality.

Indeed, as the Doctors’ Association UK argues, there is a strong case for the deaths of all the frontline workers to be automatically investigated by the coroner, so the process would be totally independent of hospitals.

Similarly, the government should be open about whether the ethnicity of those who died was a factor. Its record on this question does not inspire confidence. Initially, ministers declined to publish in full the findings of a Public Health England review, which said: “Racism and discrimination experienced by Bame key workers [is] a root cause affecting health and exposure risk. For Bame communities, lack of trust of NHS services resulted in reluctance to seek care.”

The government insists a wider review is now under way, and that hospitals have already been told to risk assess workers who might be more susceptible to the virus, such as those from Bame backgrounds or with existing health conditions. But we still await a detailed plan to tackle the disproportionate death rate among Bame communities.

A worrying pattern of behaviour is emerging. There has also been a lack of transparency over the 22,000 deaths in care homes. Relatives of residents who died or survived the tragedy which unfolded behind closed doors were often unable to learn anything about the pandemic’s impact on individual homes.

It appears that providers, many of whom are struggling to survive after being left in the lurch by the government, fear a flood of legal actions by bereaved relatives. Such fears should not preclude an honest assessment of what went wrong – and right.

Downing Street is very keen on data science and the figures it publicised when it held a daily press conference on coronavirus served the public well. However, ministers are now developing a habit of citing unpublished data when announcing decisions, without disclosing the evidence in full. One example was when the government announced that people from two households would be banned from meeting in homes and gardens in parts of the north of England.

Nor should data be misused to garner favourable headlines. A forthcoming PHE study was selectively previewed to show that schoolchildren are unlikely to transmit the virus. But it is also believed to have found that secondary school pupils are as likely to pass it on as adults.

Some scientists who do not advise the government are rightly worried that crucial decisions on coronavirus are being made by a tight, closed circle of politicians, civil servants and scientific advisers privy to data that should be shared with the public in real time.

Trust in the government has slipped back from the high levels seen at the start of the pandemic. Ministers will need to retain what remains in order to secure the public’s cooperation during what is likely to be a difficult winter. The quid pro quo must be more openness and less secrecy. Transparency cannot be a rule that applies only when it suits the government.

Up to 6% of England’s population may have had Covid, study shows

About 3.4 million people in England – 6% of the population – have had Covid-19, with infections more common among members of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, according to the results of a large home antibody testing study.

The results from the study, known as React-2, are based on home finger-prick antibody test results from 100,000 participants across the 314 local authorities in England.

“It gives us the most robust, cross-sectional estimate of the number of people who have been infected during the first wave of the pandemic,” said Prof Graham Cooke, a co-author of the research from Imperial College London. “Because we have done it in scale we can have more confidence about the differences between different groups,” he added.

Cooke said the study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, provides important insights, both for easing lockdown and preparing for a second wave.

“There is no evidence of anything near high-enough levels of herd immunity for this to be helpful at a population level and that it is likely there is a high proportion of susceptible people out there still that need to be protected,” he said.

The 3.4 million people that it represents is many times higher than the tally of known cases for the UK as posted by Johns Hopkins University in the US – whose aggregated numbers have become the main reference for monitoring the disease – and which listed the country’s case numbers at 315,546 as of Thursday morning.

The study tracked the spread of infection across England after the pandemic’s first peak, with randomly selected adults testing themselves at home between 20 June and 13 July.

The results show considerable geographical differences. While 13% of people in London had antibodies, this was the case for less than 3% of people in the south-west.

Infections were also more common members of BAME communities, at 17% for black ethnicity compared with 5% for white.

“That probably goes a long way to explain some of the differences in mortality that we have seen between black, Asian and white populations,” said Cooke. Cooked added this greater prevalence of infections can largely be explained by factors such as being more likely to have key-worker status, living in urban centres – particularly London – living in families with larger households, and living in more deprived areas, all of which were linked to a greater prevalence of antibodies.

“From what we can see, it is the social-demographic factors that make the greatest difference,” said Cooke.

People working in care homes (16%) and healthcare (12%) returned far higher results than people who were not key workers, at 5%.

The study also suggests 32% of people who had Covid-19 had no symptoms of the disease – previous research has suggested the figure could be anywhere between 30% and 70% of infections.

“The number we are coming up with is at the lower end, but it is clearly still a lot,” said Cooke.

Cooke said the test correctly picked up antibodies 84% of the time in individuals with non-hospitalised disease at over 21 days since their illness; nearly all those who had previously had a positive Covid-19 test were found to have antibodies.

The team used antibody test results from NHS healthcare workers who had previously tested positive for Covid, to estimate the proportion of people who have been infected but do not subsequently show antibodies. “We do see a clear association between severity of illness and the likelihood of having antibodies,” said Cooke.

Cooke said the team plan to do another round of the study in mid-September in 200,000 people to coincide with the return of schools. But Cooke warned such antibody tests remain of limited value for personal use, noting they are not yet accurate enough for such purpose while it is unclear how protective antibodies are against future Covid-19 infections, and at what levels or for how long.

Health minister Edward Argar said:“Large scale antibody surveillance studies are crucial to helping us understand how the virus has spread across the country and whether there are specific groups who are more vulnerable, as we continue our work to drive down the spread of the disease.”

David Heymann, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who was not involved in the study welcomed the work.

“This is a very important study, and it shows that the population is very willing to participate in activities towards better understanding of Covid-19 and its spread within England – hopefully this will lead to greater interest in participating in activities that will decrease the risk of transmission.”

Devon’s low number of cases still not linked to tourists

The number of coronavirus cases in Devon remains among the lowest in the country, with no cases linked to tourists, and track and trace contacting nearly 100 per cent of their contacts.

Daniel Clark

The Team Devon Local Outbreak Engagement Board meeting on Wednesday morning heard that the county ‘remains on top of the situation’ around COVID-19, with just the one case confirmed in the South Hams in the last five days, only five cases in the county in the last week, with no clusters of cases.

Simon Chant, public health specialist, told the meeting that in the last ten weeks, there have only been two occasions when three or more cases in a week from a Middle Super Output Area – statistical areas of around 7,500 people – were recorded, and that in the most recent week of statistics, there were no areas in Devon that met the threshold.

Information from the Devon Coronavirus website

                              Information from the Devon Coronavirus website

And he said that of the cases that were being found in each of the district council areas, they were being distributed among the area with the cases ‘popping up in different areas and different towns’, but with no clusters of cases forming and with them being isolated incidents.

Steve Brown, the deputy director of public health, added that Devon was doing ‘much better’ than other parts of the country in terms of contact tracing, added: “In terms of more complex cases, we are contacting more of less 100 per cent of those people.”

At the previous Team Devon meeting two weeks ago, it was stated that none of the confirmed cases in county had been linked to tourism, and Dame Suzi Leather asked when would any impact of tourists flooded into the county show up in the dataset, or whether it would have already seen the impact if there was to be one.

In response, Mr Chant confirmed that the impact would have already started to emerge if it was there, but it was one that they continued to watch. He added: “To date, we have still not seen any cases related to tourism. The cases have been related to resident population and not tourists or any tourist accommodation site, but we continue to actively monitor this.”

Cllr John Hart, leader of the council, added: “The residents of Devon don’t need to worry about tourists coming to the area. People of Devon, please accept the tourists, but tourists please remember, the people of Devon live here. Tourism is the lifeblood of the economy and the lockdown has had a very serious impact on it.”

The meeting also heard how the new Coronavirus in Devon dashboard worked, with it collating all the information on confirmed cases, deaths, and MSOA clusters into one easy to use location.

Information from the Devon Coronavirus website

                                    Information from the Devon Coronavirus website

In the week from August 3 to August 9 – the latest available data after the Government dashboard was unable to update on Monday due to technical difficulties, there were five confirmed in Devon (one in East Devon, Torridge and West Devon, and two in the South Hams), two in Torbay, three in Plymouth, and 13 in Cornwall, with the confirmed rate per 100,000 in Devon being 0.6.

Mr Chant added: “The threshold for being on the Government watch list is around 20 per 100,000, so the Devon rate is a long way away from the threshold for further action.”

Mr Brown added that the positivity rate per test was between 0.1 and 0.3 per cent in Devon, well under the national average of 0.6 per cent, and the 5 per cent figure for which anything underneath suggests the pandemic is under control, showing that the low number of cases in Devon isn’t just because testing is not being carried out.

And answering questions about what may happen when schools, colleges, and universities go back in September, he added that Devon had a plan in place to deal with any outbreaks.

Information from the Devon Coronavirus website

                            Information from the Devon Coronavirus website

He said: “There are anxiety levels from some about all pupils returning to schools, but all schools have had guidance about what to do to prepare for September and we have put in place plans if there is an outbreak. There is similar concern about schools and pupils going back as there was to tourists coming to the region, but the data hasn’t supported those concerns. Ultimately, the confidence will be assured or not if we do or don’t have to deal with any outbreaks.”

Cllr Hart added: “There is currently no concern over community spread or linked cases,” but in the key messages from the meeting, added: “The number of cases are still very low in Devon and we want to keep it that way. We are continuing to monitor the local situation very closely based on good local data and local intelligence.

“It is vital that we continue to work together to encourage everyone to keep it up and to promote prevention measures, test and trace, and adherence to the latest government guidance. We will not hesitate to take appropriate and proportionate local action if it becomes necessary.”

South west England full to capacity, say police 

The south west of England is “full to capacity” leading to “unprecedented demand” for 999 services in Devon and Cornwall, police have warned.

The force received 2,301 emergency calls at the weekend, a 26.5% increase on the same period in 2019.

Anti-social behaviour accounted for many of the calls, with a 67% increase year on year.

Devon and Cornwall Police has asked people to “respect our region”.

Assistant Chief Constable Jim Colwell said the weekend’s events, spurred on by the hot weather, had resulted in an “unprecedented demand”, forcing officers to attend a “plethora of different incidents”.

It included 31 reports of environmental anti-social behaviour (ASB), including disposable barbeques and other waste being left behind by people.

Officers said a further 102 reports of ASB were “often drink-related”, and recorded another 191 reports of people being a “nuisance”.

‘Unacceptably high’

In August alone, the force said it had taken 9,622 calls, equating to about 962 per day and “significantly up” on the average 718.

Residents in Cornwall previously said they were “too scared” to go shopping due to the number of visitors, with respondents in one Devon town adding they were “exhausted and overwhelmed” by the levels of disregard shown by incomers.

ACC Colwell described the figures as “unacceptably high” and called on tourists to “think” before they travel to the region.

“Book your accommodation before you travel, drive safely on our roads, respect our coasts and drink responsibly,” he said.

“If you are visiting the many outstanding areas of natural beauty we have, take your rubbish away and play your part in making Devon and Cornwall a safe place for our residents and tourists alike.”