New infections of coronavirus in the UK are now growing as fast as they were at the beginning of April, according to Telegraph analysis.
By Alex Clark 8 September 2020 www.telegraph.co.uk
Data on the last five days of new Covid-19 cases announced by Public Health England shows that new infections are now doubling every nine days, up from every 20 days just under a week ago.
That matches the daily rate seen between 6 and 7 April, where new coronavirus cases were doubling every eight to ten days, with a government scientific adviser today warning that the disease is again growing “exponentially” in the UK.
After a spate of continuous decline in May and June, new cases of coronavirus began to tick up again in July – around when pubs and restaurants re-opened on so-called ‘Super Saturday’ on the 4th.
At that point there were on average 700 new cases of coronavirus announced each day, down from a daily peak of over 5,000 in mid-April.
By the beginning of September this daily rate had climbed to over 2,000 a day, however, up from around 1,000 towards the end of August – more than double.
This morning Professor John Edmunds, who is part of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), warned that cases are “increasing exponentially”, a phenomenon that can be seen when a logarithmic scale is applied to infections data, where straight lines represent such growth.
Professor Edmunds went on to say that the UK has entered “a risky period” with the reproduction number potentially above the crucial figure of one.
“I didn’t want us to relax measures so much that we couldn’t open the schools safely without it tipping the reproduction number significantly above one,” he told ITV news.
“And we are already above one and we’ve opened schools.”
What’s different this time?
Unlike April, however, the UK now has a far more extensive testing regime – something that might over emphasise the number of fresh infections relative to the beginning of the pandemic.
In the past week alone there have been over 1.3m coronavirus tests, as opposed to just 95,188 in the first week of April.
As of 2 September over 17m tests have been conducted in the UK, and around half of these have taken place since mid-July.
Not only are there more tests now. Those actually returning positive results are a markedly different demographic to the pandemic’s first victims.
The largest share of positive results are coming from the 20 to 29 age group – in the week to 28 August, 29 per cent of new coronavirus infections in women and 28 per cent of men were in that bracket, the biggest shares of any group.
That contrasts with most of the pandemic in the UK, when older age groups, particularly those above the age of 80, were the predominant demographic affected by the disease.
On Sunday, after it was announced the UK had seen nearly 3,000 new coronavirus infections, Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned young people not to “infect their grandparents”.
“The cases are predominantly among younger people, but we’ve seen in other countries across the world and in Europe, this sort of rise in the cases amongst younger people leading to a rise across the population as a whole,” said Mr Hancock.
“It’s so important that people don’t allow this illness to infect their grandparents, and to lead to the sorts of problems that we saw earlier in the year.”
On the other hand, Dr Neil Stone, an infectious disease specialist at University College Hospital in London, said: “I don’t believe the Covid-19 epidemic in the UK, US and elsewhere has ‘shifted’ to younger, healthier people.”
“They just weren’t being tested before.”