Covid cases are now falling in almost every age group in England and dropping quickest among teens and young adults, official data revealed today.
Department of Health-calculated infection rates dipped in every age group except five to nine year olds and 75 to 79 year olds at the end of last week.
The downturn was recorded despite schools reopening, which some scientists feared would trigger a Scotland-style coronavirus surge. But this is yet to materialise and daily case tallies have trended in the opposite direction since millions of pupils went back to classrooms.
Cases fell fastest in adults in their early twenties and 15 to 19-year-olds, dropping by 17 per cent and 13 per cent in a week, respectively. There was also a slight downturn in cases among 10 to 14-year-olds.
Experts said today the figures may offer proof that the virus has started to become endemic, with Britain no longer in a fragile state where cases could explode at any point. Instead, Covid will come in waves as immunity gradually fades.
Vaccines and natural immunity have helped drastically reduce the threat of the virus, effectively turning it into a heavy cold for the majority who get infected. But because protection wanes over time, it will continue to spread for generations, just like other coronaviruses.
It comes after Britain yesterday recorded a week-on-week drop in cases for the sixth day in a row, driven largely by shrinking outbreaks in England and Scotland. Department of Health officials posted 26,628 cases, almost a 30 per cent drop from the same time the previous week.
Amid fears of a tough few months ahead in the fight against Covid, Boris Johnson yesterday unveiled a winter plan for avoiding another lockdown at a Downing Street press conference, but said that thanks to vaccines the country was in an ‘incomparably’ better place.
In phase one, the country will roll out booster vaccines to over-50s and offer jabs to over-12s to help keep the lid on the virus.
But if the NHS comes under ‘unsustainable’ pressure then the Prime Minister will opt for ‘plan B’, which may see the return of face coverings in some settings, the reintroduction of WFH guidance, and Covid passports imposed on nightclubs and large events.
Experts told the PM he must be prepared to ‘go hard, go early’ if cases start to tick up, bringing back rules such as working from home with as little as a week’s notice.
The above graph shows Covid cases in England by age group since August 14. The cases are shown by specimen date, or the date at which the test was carried out. The figure reveals that cases are dipping in almost every age group except 5 to 9-year-olds (blue line) and 70 to 74-year-olds (green line). It showed Covid cases were dipping in 15 to 19-year-olds (purple line which is second highest on September 9), and there was a slight day-on-day drop in 10 to 14-year-olds (faded blue line which is highest on September 9) after levelling off
ENGLAND: The above graph shows Covid cases in England by date reported. It reveals the country is yet to see the spike in infections that was recorded in Scotland once children returned to school
SCOTLAND: Pictured above are Covid cases in Scotland by date reported. The blue line shows the average cases which have now begun to fall sharply
Department of Health figures from the Covid dashboard showed the infection rate among 15 to 19-year-olds may have peaked in the week ending September 6 at 845.4 positive tests per 100,000 people in the age group.
The rate has since dropped to 640.9, and is now trending downwards despite schools reopening.
But the most up-to-date data only goes up to September 9, and the infection rate may still change as more cases are recorded in the coming days.
Among 10 to 14-year-olds they appeared to peak at 671.1 per 100,000 in the seven-day spell ending September 6, and have since fallen slightly. The weekly rate on September 9 was 666.5.
But among five to nine year olds cases have risen in the wake of the return of schools. Their infection rate stood at 395.8 per 100,000 on September 9, up 30 per cent on the same time the previous week. Experts are confused as to why only this group of school-age children is seeing a rise in positive tests.
Britain’s Covid cases fall AGAIN after 26,628 infections are recorded
Britain’s daily Covid cases fell again yesterday, official data revealed — as Boris Johnson unveiled his winter plan to fight off another lockdown.
The Department of Health recorded another 26,628 positive tests in the previous 24 hours, down almost a third on the same time last week.
It marked the sixth day in a row infections had dropped week-on-week, with the decline being particularly driven by falling cases in both England and Scotland.
England is yet to suffer a Scotland-style spike in infections, which experts feared would be sparked once children returned to classrooms after the summer holidays.
But its schools have been back for a fortnight and no such up-tick has happened yet. The country was hit by a heatwave last week, which saw temperatures reach as high as 30C, meaning people spent more time outdoors where the virus finds it harder to spread.
Latest Covid hospitalisations showed another 1,009 people were admitted on September 9, a levelling off from the 988 admissions recorded the same time the previous week.
There were also 185 Covid deaths recorded today, which was 24 less than seven days ago.
But both figures lag several weeks behind daily cases because of the time taken for someone who has caught the virus to fall seriously ill.
Children returned to schools across England from September 1, and were required to swab themselves twice for the virus in the first week. They have also been asked to test themselves twice a week for the virus.
But most other measures to control the spread of the virus — including face masks and social distancing — have been removed. The ‘bubble’ system was also abandoned, which required all children in the same group as one who tested positive for the virus to self-isolate.
The number of lateral flow tests completed in England surged by more than half in the week after children returned to school.
There were 895,000 daily tests completed on average in the week of September 9, compared to 506,000 in the days before classrooms reopened.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia, said the data for all age groups suggested that Covid cases may now be reaching an ‘endemic equilibrium’ in England.
He told MailOnline: ‘I think what we are seeing is the fact that we are getting to the endemic equilibrium point.
‘If an infection does not disappear, it remains in society and continues to spread forever.
‘It is one that is around and not going anywhere anytime soon.
‘The amount of infection that you see then is driven in part by how quickly people lose immunity to the infection from past infection or how quickly people lose immunity to infection from vaccines.’
He added: ‘Although not every age group is showing a downturn in cases week-on-week, I suspect it will not be long before we see this in all age groups.’
Professor Hunter said on Twitter yesterday: ‘The issue now is whether cases will keep falling or level out at a new equilibrium after a bit of oscilation.’
Professor Francois Balloux, the director of the Genetics Institute at University College London, said on Twitter last night that the current decrease in cases across the country after schools reopened ‘largely mirrors what happened in the UK in March’.
He said: ‘I’m actually aware of no solid study that points to open schools increasing transmission among children, or even in the wider community.
‘The effect of unmitigated open schools on Covid transmission is, at most, weak. It may be largely neutral or could even contribute to reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes Covid].’
Professor Balloux added: ‘It might be possible if children were easily infected by adults but tended to transmit less easily to adults and other children themselves [that reopening schools could drive Covid cases down].’
A study carried out in Germany and published in March — which compared Covid cases in different states in the country with different academic calendars — found reopening schools did not spark a surge in cases.
In fact, the scientists concluded the opposite, that reopening schools actually led to the transmission of the virus being reduced.
It comes after Scotland saw its Covid cases triple in a fortnight and surge to their highest level ever in the wake of schools returning from the summer holidays.
The Office for National Statistics’ weekly surveillance report estimated 117,300 people, the equivalent of one in 45 Scots, were infected with the virus on any given day in the week ending September 3.
For comparison, the figure stood at 36,700 people, or one in 140, in the seven-day spell to August 20, which was when children started to filter back into classrooms north of the border. But Scotland saw a rapid uptick in infections following the return of schools.
CHILDREN AGED 0 TO 14 IN SCOTLAND: This graph shows the number of Covid cases detected each day among boys aged 0 to 14 (blue line) and girls in the same age group (pink line) by specimen date, which is the date the test was carried out. The data showed Covid cases in the age group may have peaked on September 1. The line falls to near the bottom of the graph at the end because Public Health Scotland has published incomplete data between September 3 and 6. It is incomplete because it takes about a week for all tests done on a particular day to be checked for the virus. This line is expected to rise over the next few days, although it is not expected to climb steeply
TEENAGERS AGED 15 TO 19 IN SCOTLAND: The above graph shows the number of Covid infections detected per day in boys aged 15 to 19 (blue line) and girls in the same age group (pink line). It shows that cases in both age groups are now falling sharply. The line falls to near the bottom of the graph at the end because Public Health Scotland has published incomplete data between September 3 and 6. It is incomplete because it takes about a week for all tests done on a particular day to be checked for the virus
WALES: The above graph shows Covid cases in Wales by date reported and the average (blue line). It reveals cases in the country now also appear to be heading downwards
NORTHERN IRELAND: The above graph shows Covid cases in Northern Ireland by date reported and the average for the cases (blue line). It reveals cases in the UK nation appear to be dropping
Data from the official dashboard shows that cases in the country have now started to dip. Yesterday they recorded the biggest dip out of the four UK nations, after infections fell by 40 per cent in a week with 3,375 registered.
Separate data from Public Health Scotland has suggested Covid cases among under-14s peaked on September 1, about two weeks after schools went back, and began to fall since.
Fronting a press conference alongside Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance last night to unveil his winter plan for avoiding another lockdown, the Prime Minister insisted that the UK was ‘incomparably’ better placed to deal with the disease this year.
He said he hoped the situation could be kept stable with more jabs and the public behaving sensibly – although ministers have made clear another lockdown cannot be completely ruled out as a ‘last resort’.
But Professor Whitty gave a more downbeat assessment, invoking the famous mantra from hit TV show Game of Thrones by warning that ‘winter is coming’.
He said that infections were ‘high’ relative to last year, and the NHS was under ‘extreme pressure’ even though vaccines were helping significantly.
The plan has already alarmed businesses and enraged Tory MPs, who heckled Sajid Javid in the Commons as he said it includes the ‘Plan B’ of making masks compulsory ‘in certain settings’, more working from home and social distancing if the
At his press conference in Downing Street, Mr Johnson insisted less drastic changes could control the outbreaks this time.
‘When you’ve got a large proportion, as we have now, with immunity, then smaller changes can make a bigger difference and give us the confidence that we don’t have to go back to the lockdowns of the past,’ he said.
He added: ‘In the meantime, we are confident in the vaccines that have made such a difference to our lives.’