Covid cases in England now FIVE times higher in young people than old

Indian variant has pushed England’s R rate to 1.4 but cases are FIVE times higher in young compared to elderly thanks to vaccines which have ‘uncoupled’ infections and deaths, swab-testing survey finds

  • UK’s largest national survey tracking the spread of coronavirus said reproduction rate was 1.44 as of June 7
  • Cases are five times higher in under-25s compared to over-65s, which scientists say is proof of jab effect
  • Added they’ve ‘uncoupled’ link between infection and severe illness, highlighting ‘strong effect of two jabs’

England’s R rate is now unofficially thought to be above 1.4 and cases of the Indian variant are doubling every 11 days, a major Government surveillance study revealed last night.

But in a promising sign, infections are five times higher in under-25s compared to over-65s, which the researchers hailed as more confirmation of how well the vaccines are performing.

They said the jabs had ‘uncoupled’ the link between Covid cases and hospitalisations, highlighting the ‘strong effect of double vaccination’ against the mutant strain.

The REACT-1 study, the UK’s largest national survey tracking the spread of coronavirus, found that Covid cases rose 50 per cent between May 20 and June 7, with about one in 670 infected in that time.

Although case numbers are still relatively low – about one in 64 were getting infected at the beginning of January, for comparison – scientists behind the programme warned that the outbreak was on an exponential curve.

Imperial College London’s Professor Paul Elliott, who runs the study, said the Government was right to delay Freedom Day by a month because the country’s situation ‘is quite unstable right now’.

He added: ‘But we can take a lot of comfort when we look in detail… there is very good protection in older ages where virtually everyone is vaccinated.’  

The country’s reproduction ‘R’ rate – the average number of people each infected person spreads Covid to – was calculated to be 1.44, which is higher than the official Government estimate last week of between 1.2 and 1.4. 

It came as the UK confirmed another 9,055 daily infections, the highest recorded in four months and up more than a fifth on last Wednesday. There were another nine deaths. 

 The REACT-1 study, the UK’s largest national survey tracking the spread of coronavirus, found infections are five times higher in under-25s compared to over-65s, which the researchers hailed as more confirmation of how well the vaccines are performing. Orange bars look at the most recent study period, from May 20 to June 7

They said that 0.15 per cent of the population would test positive now, compared to 0.1 per cent at the start of May. Although the absolute case numbers are still low – about one in 64 were getting infected at the beginning of January – scientists behind the programme warned that the outbreak was on an exponential curve

The North West, home to the majority of the country’s Indian variant hotspots, had the most amount of infections with 0.26 per cent of the population testing positive. Prevalence was lowest in the South West (0.05 per cent)

REACT-1, which is commissioned by the Government, sends out swabs to a representative sample of households across England to track the pandemic.

Around 109,000 people were swabbed in the most recent round of the study, regardless of whether they had symptoms. Just 135 people tested positive and the scientists estimated 0.15 per cent of the population has the virus.

The team found that more than 90 per cent of cases were being caused by the highly transmissible Indian ‘Delta’ variant and that the virus was doubling every 11 days nationwide, though faster in some areas and slower in others. 

Britain’s daily Covid cases hit 9,000 for the first time since February

Britain today recorded 9,000 daily Covid cases for the first time since February as the Indian variant continues to spread widely across the country.

Department of Health bosses posted 9,055 positive tests across the UK — up by a fifth on last Wednesday’s count. It is the highest toll since February 25, when 9,985 infections were registered.

Hospitalisations have also risen by 40 per cent in the space of a week in a clear sign that the rapid spread of the mutant strain has started to increase pressure on hospitals despite the success of the vaccination drive. Health officials recorded 173 admissions on June 12, the most recent day figures are available for. For comparison, the figure the previous Saturday was 123.

Despite the uptick in the number of infected patients needing NHS care, deaths remain flat. Another nine victims were added to the official fatality toll today, up from six last week — but the overall daily average for the past week has remained in single figures.

But in a glimmer of hope the fast-spreading strain won’t force ministers into delaying Freedom Day again, figures also show Covid outbreaks appear to be flat or falling in Bolton, Blackburn and other areas that were the first to be hit by the Indian Delta variant.

Fears are growing, however, that a shortage of jabs may force No10 to push back the final unlocking once again, with the pace of the roll-out having already slowed to around 450,000 a day — half of the speed seen during the best days of the programme.

Ministers have conceded supply of Pfizer’s jab is ‘tight’ while Moderna’s is also limited, and regulators have advised under-40s are not given the British-made AstraZeneca jab – the only other one available – because of its rare links to fatal blood clots, massively increasing demand for the other two options.

Boris Johnson stressed the urgent need to inoculate as many people as possible to finally end restrictions on July 19, insisting the four-week delay gave the NHS ‘more crucial weeks’ to protect Britons from the Indian variant.

 

They said that the 0.15 per cent of the population that would test positive now was up from 0.1 per cent at the start of May. Infections were lowest among older age groups, almost all of whom have now been vaccinated.

Infections were five-fold higher in children and adults under 25, with about 0.35 per cent of people testing positive, compared to the over-65s.  

The North West, home to the majority of the country’s Indian variant hotspots, had the most amount of infections with 0.26 per cent of the population testing positive. Prevalence was lowest in the South West (0.05 per cent).

The researchers also looked at the link between positive tests and hospitalisation and death numbers, which they said had been ‘weakening’ since February when the vaccine programme got up to speed.

They found that while hospilisations had started to tick up in the most recent study period, this was mostly in younger groups or in participants who were unvaccinated.   

Professor Elliot said this suggested an ‘uncoupling’ of the relationship between cases and severe illness thanks to the vaccines.

Co-author Professor Steven Riley insisted the Government was right to push the June 21 unlocking back a month but said he was ‘optimistic’ that would be enough time.

He added: ‘The age groups driving the growth are about to receive much better vaccine coverage quickly.’

Ministers have brought forward the target for offering jabs to all adults from July 31 to July 19 to coincide with all restrictions being dropped. No10 has also pledged to get two-thirds of adults fully inoculated by the same date.

Boris Johnson has stressed the urgent need to jab as many people as possible to finally end lockdown, saying the four-week delay gave the NHS a ‘few more crucial weeks’ to protect Britons from the Indian variant.  

Department of Health bosses posted 9,055 positive tests across the UK — up by a fifth on last Wednesday’s count. It is the highest toll since February 25, when 9,985 infections were registered.

Hospitalisations have also risen by 40 per cent in the space of a week in a clear sign that the rapid spread of the mutant strain has started to increase pressure on hospitals despite the success of the vaccination drive. 

Health officials recorded 173 admissions on June 12, the most recent day figures are available for. For comparison, the figure the previous Saturday was 123.

Despite the uptick in the number of infected patients needing NHS care, deaths remain flat. Another nine victims were added to the official fatality toll today, up from six last week — but the overall daily average for the past week has remained in single figures.

But in a glimmer of hope the fast-spreading strain won’t force ministers into delaying Freedom Day again, figures also show Covid outbreaks appear to be flat or falling in Bolton, Blackburn and other areas that were the first to be hit by the Indian Delta variant.

It came as one of Oxford’s jab-makers said today that Britain’s Covid crisis ‘will be over’ if vaccines still keep people out of hospital even when they catch the Indian ‘Delta’ variant or future versions of the coronavirus.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, chief of the Oxford Vaccine Group that made and trialled the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, said that coronavirus would never go away but it wouldn’t cause disaster if the jabs continue to work.

Speaking in a meeting with MPs on the science committee in Parliament he said that, if vaccines break the link between infections and mass deaths, ‘we will reach a point where we stop looking at what’s happening in the community’.

He cautioned that there will be a constant stream of new variants in the coming years and that most will evolve to try and get past vaccine immunity, but jabs should still work and they can continue to be updated.

He said: ‘If that very high protection against hospitalisation continues, despite spread in the community, then the public health crisis is over. And so far, up to Delta, we’re in a very good position as long as we’ve got people vaccinated.’

Sir Andrew’s comments were latest in a line of scientific voices warning people that Britain must learn to live with the virus even in a post-vaccine world.

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