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England’s Covid R rate stays FLAT amid signs outbreak is now slowing

England’s Covid R rate has stayed flat for three weeks in a row, No10’s top scientists believe amid promising signs the country’s outbreak might be slowing.

SAGE estimates the reproduction rate – which measures how quickly the virus is spreading – is still between 1.2 to 1.4 in England, but it could be as high as 1.7 in the staycation hotspot of the South West. 

Meanwhile, MailOnline’s analysis of Public Health England data revealed yesterday that Covid outbreaks appear to be slowing in all but one region of the country.  

With streams of data now seemingly pointing in the right direction, top scientists and ministers are confident that Freedom Day will go ahead on July 19 as planned. 

But the true state of the crisis remains a mixed picture, with separate statistics today hinting that the outbreak may be increasing in speed.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which swabs thousands of random Britons every week, estimated 122,000 people were infected on any given day last week – the equivalent of one in 440 people. This was up 16 per cent on the figure for the previous week, compared to just an 8 per cent jump in the seven-day spell before that. 

The surge in coronavirus cases – also seen in the official figures over the past two days – has all but ended hopes that Freedom Day could come a fortnight early on July 5, Whitehall insiders say. 

Covid infections are continuing to rise in England, with the number of people testing positive up by 16.6 per cent

SAGE’s estimate of the R rate today was between 1.2 and 1.4 – meaning it hasn’t changed in three weeks. But this is still the highest rate since January, when the second wave was spiralling out of control.

Previously, the reproduction rate was relatively flat and stayed between 0.7 and 1.1 throughout April and May, even as restrictions were being eased.

If the figure is below one, it means infections are shrinking. The R number reflects the average amount of people every infected patient passes the virus on to. 

No10’s top advisers said the R rate was the lowest in the East of England, London and South East, with rates of just 1.1 to 1.3. But it was the highest in the South West (1.3 and 1.7). 

The R rate is, however, a lagging indicator and does not reflect the situation currently. Instead, it paints a clearer picture on how quickly the virus was spreading three weeks ago. 

Ministers once put the R rate at the heart of their Covid battle plan. But it is now less crucial because experts care more about hospitalisation and death rates, given the country’s massively successful vaccination roll-out.  

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this month: ‘At a certain stage, we are going to have to learn to live with the virus and manage it as best we can.’ 

The PM is determined to scrap the one-metre rule on July 19 even if other Covid measures have to stay in place, Cabinet sources said yesterday.

Multiple sources have told the Daily Mail that the Prime Minister has prioritised the removal of the key social distancing rule above all other measures because of its importance to sectors such as hospitality and the arts.

Ministers will formally assess the latest data this weekend before announcing a decision on ‘the mid-point review’.

When asked whether July 5 could go ahead, a Cabinet source told the Mail: ‘It’s not happening.’

The Government’s roadmap out of lockdown had originally envisaged lifting all remaining restrictions by June 21.

But the final stage of the plan – known as Step Four – was postponed earlier this month because of the rapid spread of the Indian or Delta variant across England

Despite Covid cases rising across the country, the rate that virus outbreaks are increasing by week-on-week is now dropping in every area of England apart from the South East. Promising data showed the speed of growth dropped from 142.09 per cent to 75.5 percent in the South West. In London, in dropped from 40 per cent to 14.86 per cent. Meanwhile, in the South East it jumped slightly from 28.31 per cent to 34.87 per cent

The report today showed that, since the variant was the first discovered in April, the most cases have been found in Bolton in Greater Manchester, where 5,017 positive tests had been linked to the strain by June 21. Other hard-hit areas were in the North of England or Yorkshire, too, with Manchester (4,100), Blackburn (3,161), Leeds (3,079) and Birmingham (2,589) making up the five worst-affected areas

Graph left: A Public Health England report published today revealed the fast-spreading variant makes up 95 per cent of cases. Graph right: Lab testing shows that the Delta variant (pink) has accounted for thousands of cases (specimens) in recent weeks and case numbers are soaring. It has dwarfed all other variants, shown in different colours. The Kent variant is not shown in the graph because it looks at only ‘S gene positive’ cases which are ones that the swab test works perfectly on. The virus’s S gene on the Kent variant cannot be detected by swab-testing so it is classed as an ‘S gene negative’ variant. ‘Unclassified’ tests are strains that were not categorised as a specific variant, likely because they came in such small numbers compared to the Kent variant in January 

The Indian variant was also confirmed to have caused 1,320 hospitalisations as of June 21 — 902 of which were in under 50s. Of these, 77 per cent were unvaccinated, 9 per cent had been given a first dose and built up immunity and 3 per cent were double-jabbed. The remaining cases had received a jab but had not been given enough time to develop protection. In the over-50s, a third were unvaccinated, a quarter had received a first dose and gained some immunity and 39 per cent were fully jabbed. Some elderly and extremely vulnerable people – who were the first to be doubly vaccinated – are so frail that they cannot mount a strong enough immune response, regardless of the jabs

Officials hailed the finding as ‘hugely encouraging’, but warned against complacency as the same data showed two people under 50 had died from Covid while waiting for their second dose. In total, there have been 117 deaths in England caused by the Indian strain, and only eight were victims under the age of 50. In the under-50s group, six of the deaths were among vaccinated and two were in people who’d had a first dose. In the over-50 group there were 38 deaths in the unvaccinated group, 50 after two doses and 17 after one. One person died after getting their second jab – but before they had enough time to gain immunity

Only 3% of under-50s hospitalised with Indian Covid have been fully vaccinated – and NONE have died 

No-one under the age of 50 and fully vaccinated has died from the Indian Covid variant in England, promising Government data revealed today. 

Public Health England’s report also showed that just 3 per cent of people in that age group who caught the strain and were admitted to hospital by June 21 were double-jabbed.

Officials hailed the finding as ‘hugely encouraging’, but warned against complacency as the same data showed two people under 50 had died from Covid while waiting for their second dose.  

Patients were also at a higher risk of being hospitalised with the mutant ‘Delta’ variant if they had only been given one dose, highlighting the importance of two.

England’s original June 21 Freedom Day was pushed back by four weeks to July 19 to buy the country more time to dish out millions more second doses. Currently about 60 per cent of adults have been fully immunised.

PHE said cases of the Indian variant, which is around 80 per cent more transmissible than the previously dominant Kent strain, rose 46 per cent in a week across the UK with 35,204 more infections spotted.

Its report also showed, since the strain was first detected in April, the most cases have been discovered in Bolton (5,017), the city of Manchester (4,100), Blackburn (3,161), Leeds (3,079) and Birmingham (2,589). The variant is least common in rural areas, mainly in the South West. 

Meanwhile, PHE warned it had spotted another new Covid variant that emerged in Peru and has infected at least six Britons. The ‘Lambda’ strain, as it’s been named by the World Health Organization, has been designated a ‘Variant Under Investigation’ while PHE work out how infectious, deadly or vaccine-resistant it is.

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics today estimated that 122,500 were infected on any given day last week. – the equivalent of one in 440 people.   

Unveiling the data today, the ONS said the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus ‘continued to increase in the week ending June 19’. 

About 0.22 per cent of the population had the virus, according to the testing data. One week earlier, 105,000 people were estimated to have the virus, equating to 0.16 per cent of the country.

An estimated 0.6 per cent of people in the North West – home to Indian variant hotspots Bolton and Blackburn – were infected. 

The North East is also seeing cases trend slightly higher, with 0.3 per cent of people there having Covid.

The ONS estimates the East of England, East Midlands and South East have smaller outbreaks than the country, while other areas are in line with the national average. 

The data also shows that Scotland has the highest infection rate across the UK, with an estimated one in 220 people having the virus. Around 24,400 people are thought to have the virus there, equating to 0.46 per cent of the population.

The ONS said the trend of data in Wales and Northern Ireland is uncertain, but it estimates that cases are rising in both countries.  

Separate surveillance data published yesterday by Public Health England showed the number of people testing positive for Covid has gone up across all regions of the country and in all age groups. 

Hospital admissions are also going up across the nation, its report also said.

But the rate of infection is slowing overall, according to MailOnline’s analysis of the data.

Only the South East of England saw the speed of growth increase. Some 59.4 people per 100,000 tested positive for Covid in the week up to June 20, up from 44.1 the week before.

This means that the rate of infection jumped by 34.87 per cent, compared to the 28.31 per cent increase the week before.

The figures show that the North West — home to Indian variant hotspots Bolton and Blackburn — had the highest proportion of people testing positive, with 238.9 people per 100,000. But its cases only went up by 19.26 per cent. The week before it saw a 31.74 per cent jump.

It comes as Britain saw a record 16,703 positive tests on Thursday in the highest daily toll since early February. But officials believe the huge up-tick has been fuelled by a mass testing blitz in Scotland — yet other experts believe Euro 2020 has played a role in the rise. 

Deaths — which lag several weeks behind cases — remain flat but are creeping upwards following the explosion of cases throughout June, with 21 victims today compared to 19 last Thursday. 

In the last seven days, new Covid cases have jumped up by 51.7 per cent in the UK and deaths have increase from 18 to 2. As it stands, 43.6million people have had their first dose of the vaccine while 31.9million have had their second. In the seven days leading up to June 20, 204 people went to hospital with the virus, down from 222 one week earlier

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