Daily Covid-19 infections hit 24,701 in first DROP for a fortnight

Daily Covid-19 infections hit 24,701 in first DROP for a fortnight but deaths continue to rise as Tory MPs and businesses urge Boris Johnson to ‘face down’ Sir Patrick Vallance and reject calls for second lockdown

  • Department of Health figures show 26,688 positive Covid-19 tests were added to the tally last Wednesday 
  • It means today is the first time number has fallen on the amount recorded the week before since October 11
  • But deaths are continuing to rise with 310 more laboratory-confirmed coronavirus victims recorded today 
  • In contrast, 191 deaths  were registered last Wednesday — it can take weeks for patients to get severely ill

Britain’s daily number of Covid-19 cases dropped today for the first time in at least a fortnight as health officials announced 24,701 more infections.

Department of Health figures show 26,688 positive tests were added to the tally last Wednesday, meaning today is the first time the number has fallen on the amount recorded the week before since October 11, when the tally was affected by a counting blunder.

But deaths are continuing to rise. Another 310 coronavirus victims were recorded today, up from the 191 posted this time last week. It can take infected patients several weeks to become severely-ill, meaning the death toll lags behind any spike in cases. 

It comes as Boris Johnson has been warned by his top scientific advisers that the UK is facing a second wave of coronavirus even deadlier than the first as they urge the Prime Minister to impose tougher lockdown rules. 

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has presented the PM with projections which suggest the peak of the second wave will be lower than it was in the first wave. However, the peak is expected to last for longer, with high numbers of daily deaths likely to continue for months, resulting in a ‘lampshade’ second wave. 

Sir Patrick Vallance, Number 10’s chief scientific adviser, is leading calls within the Government for Mr Johnson to take more drastic action as soon as possible to slow the spread of the disease amid fears the daily death toll will hit 500 within weeks. 

SAGE is said to be of the view that all of England will be forced into Tier Three lockdown by mid-December. 

But Mr Johnson is facing a difficult balancing act, with his experts calling for tougher restrictions while Tory MPs demand the PM set out a lockdown exit strategy. 

The Northern Research Group of more than 50 Conservative MPs, many from constituencies in the so-called Red Wall, is adamant the PM must announce a road map for how areas can get out of Tier Three as rebels warned the north of England is being unfairly treated. 

The group’s efforts received a boost from Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday as he said he shared the MPs’ frustrations at rules being imposed and ‘you want to know when it is going to be over’ in an apparent hint at his opposition to a national shutdown. 

Despite the warnings from SAGE, Environment Secretary George Eustice insisted this morning a national lockdown is ‘not appropriate’ because there is ‘no point having a lockdown in those parts of the country where the incidence of the disease is very low’. 

Tory MPs are urging Mr Johnson to resist Sir Patrick’s pleas for tougher action as they claimed SAGE appeared to operate in a ‘medical vacuum’ with no appreciation for the state of the economy or for ‘how people feel’ amid concerns about the mental health impact of the current rules.

One senior Tory MP said: ‘There is a feeling among colleagues that Vallance is somebody who not just errs on the side of caution but takes that as his inflexible position.’ 

The MP added: ‘What would be the purpose of imposing lockdowns in parts of the country where there is very little Covid?’  

According to internal analysis provided to Number 10 by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), deaths will peak at a lower level than in the spring but could remain high for weeks or even months with a Christmas respite unlikely

Sources within SAGE say there could be 25,000 people in hospital with Covid-19 by the end of November, more than double the 10,000 currently receiving care. Latest NHS England figures suggest the country has about 110,000 beds at its disposal, plus tens of thousands more in the Nightingale hospitals built during the first wave, which went unused. Its suggests that, even if the bleak prediction of 25,000 Covid-19 patients in hospitals by next month comes true, the health service will not be overstretched

But Mr Johnson is having to perform a balancing act, with SAGE experts calling for tougher lockdowns while Tory MPs press for a road map out of restrictions

In the early days of Britain’s coronavirus outbreak, top scientists predicted the crisis would take a sombrero-hat shape on graphs. Boris Johnson told the nation the plan was to delay the peak of the outbreak, or ‘squash the sombrero’.

Then in September, when the virus started to make a resurgence when schools and universities returned, the Prime Minister warned tougher action would be needed if the country failed to ‘stop the second hump of the dromedary’.

Now, Whitehall insiders have resorted to another bizarre phrase to describe how the second Covid-19 wave could pan out — with startling projections presented by SAGE warning of a ‘lampshade’ curve.

The forecast being circulated through Government predicts deaths will hit 500 a day by the end of November. For comparison, more than 1,000 Covid-19 patients were dying each day during the darkest spell of the pandemic in March and April.

But experts fear daily coronavirus deaths will stay at a high level for a longer period of time — making the second wave more deadly overall than the first, which killed at least 40,000 people.

A source told the Daily Telegraph: ‘It’s going to be worse this time, more deaths. That is the projection that has been put in front of the Prime Minister, and he is now being put under a lot of pressure to lock down again.’

Dr Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England’s medical director, warned last night that the spike in fatalities would continue ‘for some time’, after the UK recorded another 367 Covid-19 victims — the highest daily death toll since the end of May.

It comes after a SAGE adviser last week warned the second wave of Covid-19 could peak at Christmas unless there is a national lockdown now. Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist based at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told MPs that he couldn’t see a way out of the current crisis without ‘deaths in the tens of thousands’.

Deaths climbed quickly in Britain’s first wave, rising almost 15-fold in a fortnight. On average, 42 infected patients were succumbing to the illness every day on March 23 — when lockdown was imposed. This jumped to 627 just a fortnight later.

But fatalities have yet to take off in the second wave. Department of Health statistics show around 200 Britons are currently dying from Covid-19 each day. But the figure two weeks ago stood at 82.

Britain is only now starting to record more coronavirus victims because of a spike in cases in September and October, following a lull in transmission over the summer. It can take infected patients weeks to fall severely ill and die.

And despite warnings that the death toll will continue to soar, a raft of statistics have suggested the outbreak has already started to slow down. It could mean that deaths may start to tail off in the coming weeks.

 

The latest coronavirus developments came as:

  • SAGE member Professor Sir Mark Walport said it is ‘not unrealistic’ to think there could be 25,000 Covid-19 patients in hospitals by the end of November. 
  • Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, has urged Mr Johnson to convene a four-nation summit to agree UK-wide coronavirus rules for the Christmas period. 
  • Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the Government’s failure to impose a circuit-breaker lockdown over half-term meant ministers now need to ‘do something quickly to save Christmas’.
  • But Mr Eustice said it was ‘far too early’ to set out guidelines for Christmas.  
  • More hospitals announced they are suspending non-urgent surgery because of an influx of coronavirus patients.
  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced he will reveal the Government’s spending plans for the year ahead on November 25.
  • West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson warned police could break up Christmas dinners if people flout rules on gatherings. 
  • Mark Drakeford announced a further 37 coronavirus deaths in Wales, the highest daily number in more than six months.
  • Bristol risked confusion as it announced it is moving into what it described as ‘Tier One Plus’, a move which includes introducing Covid marshalls and taking on further test and trace powers.
  • The FTSE 100 closed down 1.9 per cent as it hit its lowest level in six months.   

The UK is this morning waking up to predictions of a grim winter after it emerged that SAGE advice to the PM has projected the second wave could be even deadlier than the first.  

A source told The Telegraph: ‘It’s going to be worse this time, more deaths.

‘That is the projection that has been put in front of the Prime Minister and he is now being put under a lot of pressure to lock down again.’

SAGE has separately warned that it believes all of England will have to be put into the top tier of restrictions by mid-December, putting Christmas get-togethers at risk of being cancelled completely. 

Mr Johnson has previously described the Government’s coronavirus graphs which plot the number of deaths as looking like a sombrero or a camel’s hump. 

But the latest SAGE modelling suggests there is likely to be a so-called ‘lampshade’ graph in the coming months as infections reach a peak and then remain at a high level for weeks or even moths before eventually falling. 

Government experts believe daily deaths could remain in the hundreds for months, long beyond Christmas and potentially into March. 

A Government source told The Sun the latest Sage numbers are ‘utterly bleak’ with projections reportedly showing there could be 25,000 people in hospital with Covid-19 by the end of November.  

That would represent an even higher number than the peak in hospitalisations during the first wave. 

The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 is currently just below 10,000. 

A further 367 deaths were announced yesterday, the highest daily number since May, with the official UK death toll now at 43,365.    

Health chiefs believe the daily total could rise to 500 within weeks, still significantly below the 1,000-plus recorded during the peak of the first wave, amid fears that the Government’s tier system is not enough to get infections back under control. 

Professor Sir Mark Walport, a member of SAGE, said this morning there is currently ‘little to feel reassured about’ and that it is ‘certainly not unrealistic to think’ there could be 25,000 people in hospital by the end of the November.  

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We are still relatively early in the second wave and, as we know, there’s a significant lag – two to three, two to four weeks – between actually getting an infection and people potentially dying, and so the number of deaths is always lagging the number of cases that are reported at any one time, so there’s little to feel reassured about.’

He added: ‘There are still an awful lot of people out there who are vulnerable, it’s not, as it were, that the disease has killed off everyone who is vulnerable, there are still very many people that are vulnerable and we know that only still a relatively small proportion of the population has had this infection.’

However, Sir Mark said he hoped improved treatments for coronavirus could keep the death toll down. 

West Yorkshire may be next to move into Tier Three affecting 1.8million people. If it were to be plunged into Tier Three, it would follow neighbours South Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester

Lib Dems urge Boris Johnson to hold four-nation summit to save Christmas

Boris Johnson is being urged by the Liberal Democrats to convene a four-nation summit to save Christmas as the party warned it is ‘inevitable’ people will travel to be with their loved ones. 

The party has written to Mr Johnson as well as Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster calling for them to work together on a blueprint for the festive period. 

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said that because family members are often split up across the different nations of the UK it makes sense for there to be one set of coronavirus rules during Christmas to avoid confusion. 

The party wants the four nations to agree ‘uniform guidance’ on the number of people who can gather, to cooperate on the safe return of students and to explore how to expand travel options to allow people to move around the country while complying with social distancing.  

Such a unified approach would represent a dramatic departure from the current way of working which has seen the four nations act largely independently in response to the coronavirus crisis. 

But Environment Secretary George Eustice rejected the idea this morning, saying it is ‘far too early’ to set out guidelines about Christmas.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘It’s far too early to say exactly where things will be by Christmas, but the Prime Minister’s made clear he wants people to be able to have a Christmas that’s as close to possible as normal.’ 

FTSE 100 tumbles amid fears of second lockdown

The FTSE 100 today fell to its lowest level in six months amid growing fears over the direction of the UK’s coronavirus crisis. 

Investors moved to dump riskier assets as uncertainty continues to grow over whether the Government could impose tougher Covid-19 rules or even a national shutdown as cases rise.

The index finished 1.9 per cent down after losses in real estate and travel stocks. 

The FTSE 250 index also finished down 1.5 per cent as it slid to a three-week low after retailers and banks suffered a decline.

The dips came after the markets were rocked by reports that Boris Johnson is under pressure from Government scientific experts to bring forward new lockdown measures after SAGE warned the second wave of infections could be deadlier than the first.

Analysts fear a new lockdown could derail the UK’s economic recovery over the summer.    

He said: ‘The number of cases is rising very significantly – it was 22,800 on 27 October and the seven-day average was just over 22,000, so there are an awful lot of cases.

‘One of the differences of course is that we are better at looking after people with coronavirus now and so hopefully the case fatality rate will be lower than it was in the first wave, but at the end of the day the fatality rate, the number of people who die is a product of the number of people who are infected and their vulnerability.’

More than eight million people across England are now in Tier Three areas, with almost all of them located in the north of the country. 

Mr Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out imposing a nationwide circuit-breaker lockdown. 

But he is reluctant to push the nuclear button because of the damage it would do to the economy and because of a growing Tory revolt over lockdown measures. 

The Northern Research Group of more than 50 Conservative MPs wrote to the PM yesterday to demand he set out a ‘road map’ for how areas can get out of Tier Three. 

The group was given a boost as Mr Sunak, who represents a constituency in Yorkshire, lined up to sympathise with the argument it had made. 

He told the BBC: ‘I absolutely share my colleague’s frustration at restrictions, of course that is frustrating if you’re having to live under these things and you want to know when it is going to be over.’ 

Growing Tory disquiet over current coronavirus restrictions means Mr Johnson is likely to face a furious backlash if he does opt to impose a national lockdown, even if it is only for a few weeks. 

However, the NRG demands for an exit strategy were given short shrift by some in Whitehall who said it is not possible to set out simple criteria for leaving Tier Three as they stressed it has to be a judgement call based on myriad factors. 

A Whitehall source told The Sun: ‘The exit path these guys want does not exist yet.’

Mr Eustice today insisted the Government is sticking to its to strategy of imposing local lockdowns. 

He told Times Radio: ‘In some ways we’ve always anticipated that there would be a second spike.

‘That’s why we have been monitoring the situation closely since September, introducing, in a timely way, restrictions that are appropriate to the level of prevalence in particular parts of the country with these three different levels of intervention.

‘And we’re adding to that all the time, so yesterday Warrington was put into the very high risk area, and there’s discussions now about Nottingham.

‘So we’re trying to intervene in things in a proportionate way across the country, but we don’t think it’s appropriate to have a national lockdown, because there’s parts of the country, like Cornwall, where the incidence of the disease is actually very low.’

Mr Eustice told the BBC: ‘We have learnt and I think our view at the moment is there’s no point having a lockdown in those parts of the country where the incidence of the disease is very low.’ 

The Cabinet minister also claimed the tiered system has held back the natural R rate of the virus of between 2.7 and 3 to the current level of between 1.4 and 1.5. 

Pressure on Mr Johnson over the Government’s coronavirus strategy came as the UK’s European neighbours braced for tougher restrictions. 

Both France and Germany are expected to announce new rules in the coming days in a desperate bid to combat a surge in infections. 

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have urged Mr Johnson to convene a four-nation summit to save Christmas as the party warned it is ‘inevitable’ people will travel to be with their loved ones. 

The party has written to Mr Johnson as well as Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster calling for them to work together on a blueprint for the festive period. 

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said that because family members are often split up across the different nations of the UK it makes sense for there to be one set of coronavirus rules during Christmas to avoid confusion. 

Office for National Statistics figures showed 761 Brits fell victim to the disease in the week ending October 16, the most recent recording period. Not since June 19, when there were 849 deaths, have more people lost their lives to the disease in a single week. At that point, the country was still in a national lockdown

Rishi Sunak to set out spending plans on November 25

Rishi Sunak will set out Government spending plans for the next year on November 25, he revealed today as coronavirus wreaks havoc with the UK economy.

The Chancellor had already confirmed that it was scrapping a planned multi-year spending review in the wake of the tumult caused by the pandemic. 

Instead he will set out a 12-month plan with its sights firmly set on coping with the dire financial impact of the global shutdown.

PM Boris Johnson wanted to use the three-year spending review to set out his masterplan for how he intends to deliver on his promise to ‘level up’ the nation. 

But the cancellation confirmed the Government has now conceded it needs to focus all of its energy on firefighting Covid-19. 

Mr Sunak today tweeted: ‘On November 25 I will deliver the 2020 Spending Review alongside the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast, setting out spending plans for the next year so we can continue to prioritise our response to Covid-19 and protect jobs.’

The party wants the four nations to agree ‘uniform guidance’ on the number of people who can gather, to cooperate on the safe return of students and to explore how to expand travel options to allow people to move around the country while complying with social distancing.

Such a unified approach would represent a dramatic departure from the current way of working which has seen the four nations act largely independently in response to the coronavirus crisis. 

Mr Ashworth said the Government’s failure to use the half-term for a circuit-breaker lockdown means they now need to ‘do something quickly to save Christmas’.

But Mr Eustice said it is ‘far too early’ to set out guidelines for the festive period.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘This is a rapidly developing situation and we are making judgments all the time about what restrictions might be needed and what’s appropriate to have as restrictions in a particular area.

‘It’s far too early to say exactly where things will be by Christmas, but the Prime Minister’s made clear he wants people to be able to have a Christmas that’s as close to possible as normal.’

It came as a police and crime commissioner warned the police could break up Christmas dinners if people flout coronavirus rules. 

West Midlands commissioner David Jamieson said officers would have to enforce any lockdown rules set by the Government over the festive period, as he also spoke of his fears of a ‘time bomb’ of unrest.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Jamieson said: ‘If we think there’s large groups of people gathering where they shouldn’t be, then police will have to intervene.

‘If, again, there’s flagrant breaking of the rules, then the police would have to enforce.

‘It’s not the police’s job to stop people enjoying their Christmas.

‘However, we are there to enforce the rules that the Government makes, and if the Government makes those rules then the Government has to explain that to the public.’ 

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