Covid cases fell by a quarter last week, says Test and Trace

Covid cases continue to fall in England: Number of people testing positive fell by a quarter last week to 149,000, Test and Trace figures show

  •  Around 149,000 people referred to the Test and Trace scheme were diagnosed in week ending February 3
  • Lowest since December 8, soon after England came out of second lockdown and before winter wave rocketed
  • Figures are yet more evidence that Britain’s second wave is firmly in retreat, with deaths also coming down

The number of people who tested positive for Covid through NHS Test and Trace in England fell by a quarter last week, official figures revealed today.

Around 149,000 people referred to the scheme were diagnosed with the disease in the week up to February 3 —down 24 per cent on the previous week. It is the lowest number since the week ending December 8, shortly after England came out of its second national lockdown and before the second wave spiralled out of control.

The figures are yet more evidence that Britain’s second wave is firmly in retreat. Hospital and death rates are also dropping by about 25 per cent week-on-week.

The Test and Trace report also revealed more than 80 per cent of close contacts of infected patients were reached and asked to self-isolate — a threshold set by SAGE which is key to the programme be successful at thwarting outbreaks. 

The scheme managed to hunt down 87 per cent of Covid patients, about 130,000, and 94 per cent of their close contacts, or 265,000. But there were still almost 20,000 people who tested positive and could not be traced, plus everyone they’d come into contact with during their illness.

The figures also highlight the Test and Trace programme is still failing to turn around Covid tests within 24 hours, despite Boris Johnson promising last June that everyone who took a PCR swab would get a result inside a day. But figures show the average turnaround time for a home testing kit is 35 hours. In-person swabs are faring much better, with 97 per cent of results sent out in a day. 

The number of people who tested positive for coronavirus through the NHS Test and Trace programme fell by a quarter last week. Today’s report showed 149,000 people referred to the scheme were diagnosed with the disease in the week up to February 3, down 24 per cent on the previous week

Health Minister Lord Bethell said: ‘More people than ever before have had a Covid-19 test this week and have also received their test result quickly and conveniently despite the demands on the service. 

‘These numbers are hugely impressive and have an enormous impact on the spread of the virus.’ 

It comes after Britain today announced 13,013 more coronavirus cases and 1,001 deaths yesterday, with both metrics down significantly from last week.

Covid infections were down by a third on last Wednesday’s figure, while fatalities shrunk by a quarter compared to the tally a week ago. 

The number of Covid patients in hospital has also fallen by more than a fifth in a week, with just over 26,000 beds now taken up by sufferers compared to almost 40,000 at the peak last month.

Meanwhile, Department of Health officials revealed another 415,000 vaccines had been administered on Tuesday, with more than 13million Brits having now received their first dose. 

With four days still to go, Britain is now cruising towards the Government’s target of injecting the 15million most vulnerable by February 15. 

With all the key statistics now pointing towards a quickly shrinking epidemic, and with the vaccine rollout steaming ahead, pressure is mounting on the Government to start dropping the most brutal lockdown curbs.

More than three million people were tested by NHS Test and Trace this reporting week, the highest number ever in a single week

The figures also highlight the Test and Trace programme is still failing to turn around Covid tests within 24 hours, despite Boris Johnson promising last June that everyone who took a PCR swab would get a result inside a day

The scheme managed to hunt down 87 per cent of Covid patients, about 130,000, and 94 per cent of their close contacts, or 265,000

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to lay out a ‘route map’ out of the national shutdown on February 22, with schools expected to be the first to go back sometime after March 8. 

If the country follows the Israeli roadmap for defeating coronavirus then it suggests Britain will only begin  

Britain will only begin to emerge from lockdown at the end of May, if it follows the Israeli roadmap for defeating coronavirus.

Israel has started implementing a three-stage plan to exit draconian Covid restrictions – similar to the blueprint Boris Johnson is set to lay out on February 22.

Israeli officials hope to let non-essential shops, gyms and libraries reopen within a fortnight. 

But ministers will only give the move the green light on February 23 if 90 per cent of over-50s have been vaccinated and at least a third of the country have had their booster dose. Infection rates must also continue to plummet.

Under the same lockdown-easing plan, pubs, cafes and restaurants won’t be allowed to welcome customers again until March 9 — by which time 95 per cent of over-50s must have been jabbed. Four million Israelis — roughly 45 per cent of the country — will also need to have had their top-up jab.

Were Number 10 to follow Israel’s model, non-essential shops wouldn’t reopen until late May because of how long it would take to vaccinate the 17million Britons aged 50-70 who are next on the NHS priority list. Pubs, restaurants and hotels would have to wait until early June.

Schools could start from roughly the middle of May, as per the Israeli system which requires 70 per cent of over-50s to be fully vaccinated before kids go back to class. But the Prime Minister has pledged to reopen schools from March 8.

These dates for the UK are borne out in modelling by the University of Warwick which was passed to Sage a few weeks ago.

It argued that the best way for Britain to prevent another surge in Covid deaths was to keep the national lockdown going until the end of May and then recommence the social distancing rules in September until the end of 2021.  

Hunt for the 2million unvaccinated Britons 

Ministers are hunting for the final two million vulnerable Britons who have not yet come forward for their Covid vaccine, warning that having large numbers of unprotected people could delay the easing of lockdown.

The Government has made it its mission to inoculate the 15million Brits most at risk of dying from the coronavirus by Monday, which includes everyone over 70, care home residents, their carers and frontline NHS staff, as well as patients classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, such as those with terminal illnesses.

But while 13million in the most vulnerable categories have had the jab, including 90 per cent of the over-70s and care home residents, the Prime Minister has warned there is still a group numbering roughly twice the population of Birmingham who had yet to receive one.  

Sir Patrick Vallance warned last night that lockdown-loosening plans will have to go even slower if large numbers of vulnerable people remained unvaccinated. This would mean there is always the threat of a rapid spike in deaths and hospitalisations, he said.

There are concerns that social care workers are more reluctant to come forward or have been missed because of shift patterns and that some elderly people are having trouble booking appointments or reaching vaccination centres. 

GPs are now being paid commission to inoculate the housebound in their homes and family doctors are being urged to make personal calls to all their older patients who have not received their injection. Roving teams will hunt for care home staff who have been missed and drive-through centres have been set up to give them a more flexible way to get their jab without leaving their cars.

Meanwhile, data suggests up to twice as many black, Asian and ethnic minority Brits are turning down the vaccine compared to white people, which is believed to be due to a mistrust in Government. The NHS is working with local faith and community leaders to tackle vaccine hesitancy and counter anti-vaxx propaganda online.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said this morning despite the concerns, the Government is ‘confident’ of meeting its target.

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