Another two people have died of Covid-19 in the UK, taking the official total to 41,501.
And a further 1,406 people were diagnosed with the pandemic virus as case numbers surge to their highest levels since the start of June.
Yesterday just one Covid-19 victim was reported which adds to hopes the coronavirus is petering out. Figures on bank holidays and weekends are usually lower than normal due to a delay in processing over the weekend.
Despite tumbling numbers of deaths, there are growing concerns about increasing positive tests, with 1,715 new positive cases reported on Sunday in the biggest daily rise for 12 weeks.
The last time Britain’s daily case load was as high as it is now was on June 4, when the nation was still in lockdown and 1,805 people were diagnosed in just 24 hours.
Scotland today revealed a further 160 cases, its highest figures in three months, which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted was ‘undoubtedly a concern’ and that she felt ‘anxiety’ about it.
It comes as parents prepare to send their children back to school tomorrow after a long heated debate between ministers and teachers’ unions over whether it is safe.
In other coronavirus news today:
- A furious holidaymaker on-board a 193-passenger TUI flight from Zante to Cardiff has hit out at the airline after they were told they all have to self-isolate following 16 positive coronavirus tests;
- Pupils face being disciplined for coughing at classmates, using another year group’s toilets or even joking about coronavirus;
- A US study has found up to 90 per cent of people who test positive for Covid-19 have barely any traces of the virus and it could be because today’s tests are ‘too sensitive’;
- Sarah Gilbert, the brains behind Oxford University’s Covid-19 vaccine, has said more diseases with pandemic potential are likely to jump from animals to humans in the near future because of modern lifestyles.
The 160 new cases of Covid-19 in Scotland is the highest total since May 16 and an increase on the 123 announced on Sunday.
It brings the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 20,478.
The First Minister Ms Sturgeon said she feels ‘a greater sense of anxiety today’ than at any time ‘probably for the last couple of months’.
‘The number of cases we are seeing right now is a reminder to all of us the virus is still a very real risk,’ Ms Sturgeon said.
‘It is a development that concerns me and it is one we are taking very seriously.
‘We mustn’t lose sight of how important it is if we are to keep schools open, build economic recovery and retain a bit more normality in our lives that we do continue to suppress the virus and push as close to elimination of it as we possibly can.’
The majority of new cases in Scotland were in the central belt, with 69 in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area and 27 in Lanarkshire.
Cases are rising across the UK, with the average number of people diagnosed per day over the past week now at 1,323.
This is higher than at any point since June 14 and has almost doubled in a month from 753 on July 31.
Scotland today revealed a further 160 cases, the highest in three months, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, pictured on August 26, said it was ‘undoubtedly a concern’.
Ms Sturgeon said the rise of cases in Greater Glasgow and Clyde ‘seems to reflect a number of small clusters, rather than one or two more significant outbreaks’.
Speaking during the daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said the ‘quite high’ numbers of new cases were ‘partly a result of greater numbers of people being tested’ and she stressed the proportion of people testing positive was still below one per cent.
The First Minister said ‘many people’ had been looking forward to gyms and pools reopening, adding that the move would be a ‘major relief’ for people who work in the leisure sector.
She added: ‘The reopening is a further welcome step in getting back to normal, it is important for wider health and wellbeing.
‘But it also obviously brings risks, there is no getting away from that, and that is why we have delayed this until now.’
Ms Sturgeon added: ‘The figures we are seeing just now for new cases demonstrate very clearly that this virus is still present across the country, it will spread rapidly if it gets the chance.’
Concluding the briefing, Ms Sturgeon issued a plea for people to ‘think very carefully about how you’re living your life at the moment’ as she revealed anxiety about the ‘fragile’ state of coronavirus suppression.
Experts have said repeatedly that case numbers should be expected to increase as more tests are done.
And in addition, it was expected that more people would get infected as lockdown measures loosened, which they did almost two months ago in most areas of England, where the most cases are being found.
Statisticians estimate there are still around 2,200 people catching Covid-19 every day in England alone, meaning even the higher numbers of positive tests are not including everyone who has the virus.
Because of this, the numbers of people testing positive each day could continue to go up even if the actual number of infections doesn’t.
The number of fatalities in Scotland today remained at 2,494 with no deaths reported in the past five days.
UP TO 90% OF COVID-19 PATIENTS ARE NOT CONTAGIOUS, STUDY SUGGESTS
Up to 90 per cent of Covid-19 patients in Massachusetts, New York and Nevada in July carried barely any traces of the virus and it could be because today’s tests are ‘too sensitive’, experts have said.
PCR testing – the most widely used diagnostic test for Covid-19 – need to be adjusted to rule out people who have insignificant amounts of the virus in their systems because they’re likely not contagious, *** said,
Today the PCR test, which provides a yes or no answer if a patient is infected, doesn’t say how much of the virus a patient has in their body.
PCR tests analyse genetic matter from the virus in cycles and today’s tests typically take 37 or 40 cycles, but experts say this is too high because it detects very small amounts of the virus that don’t pose a risk.
The test’s threshold is so high it detects people with the live virus and those with few genetic fragments that are leftovers from infection and no longer pose risk, Dr Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said.
She described it like finding a hair in a room after a person left it.
Doctors say fewer cycle thresholds, meaning the number of cycles needed to detect the virus, hone in on those with greater amounts of the virus who do pose risks, according to the New York Times.
Experts say a reasonable cutoff for the virus would be 30 or 35 cycles, according to Juliet Morrison, a virologist at the University of California, Riverside. Dr Mina said he would set the cutoff at 30.
New York’s state lab Wadsworth analysed cycle thresholds values in already processed Covid-19 PCR tests and found in July that 794 positive tests were based on a threshold of 40 cycles.
With a cutoff of 35, about half of those tests would no longer qualify as positive. About 70 per cent would no longer be judged positive if the cycles were limited to 30.
In Massachusetts, from 85 to 90 per cent of people who tested positive in July with a cycle threshold of 40 would have been considered negative if the threshold were 30 cycles, Dr Mina said.
‘I would say that none of those people should be contact-traced, not one,’ he said.
Northern Ireland and Wales also reported zero new deaths for the fourth day in a row. They reported 58 and 39 new cases today, respectively.
Four deaths reported by NHS England bring the total deaths in hospitals during the pandemic to 29,554 – not all were included in the Department of Health’s release because the two agencies have different time cut-offs.
Today’s data comes after the Health Secretary warned yesterday that more national lockdown restrictions cannot be ruled out should England see a rise in coronavirus cases this winter.
Matt Hancock hinted that restrictions may not be eased over Christmas to avoid an ‘uptick’ in the number of Covid-19 cases.
Speaking to The Times, Mr Hancock said: ‘Cases go up again, and we have to use very extensive local lockdowns or take further national action.
‘We don’t rule that out, but we don’t want to see it.’
Other data suggest Britain’s coronavirus outbreak is not spiralling out of control as feared, including the latest NHS Test and Trace figures which show the number of positive cases dropped by almost nine per cent in a week.
A total of 6,115 people were diagnosed between August 13 and 19, down from 6,656 the week before.
A number of places in the north-west of England have seen a drop in coronavirus cases after restrictions were brought in in late July, Public Health England (PHE) revealed on Friday.
The agency said on Friday that ‘Covid-19 activity remained stable at a national level’.
Its weekly report showed that Pendle, Oldham, Blackburn with Darwen, Manchester, Rochdale and Salford have all shown a reduction in positive tests, though they are still in the top of the league table for the highest infection rates.
People in Oldham and parts of Blackburn and Pendle are still not allowed to socialise with anyone outside their household anywhere.
However, more than one million people will be allowed to mix in different households again from Wednesday due to a slow in cases – the first time since restrictions were announced on 30 July.
Social gatherings will be allowed to take place between two homes in Bolton, Stockport, Trafford, Burnley, Hyndburn and parts of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees.
PHE said the number of confirmed cases is heavily dependent on how many people – and who – are tested. And this has changed drastically since the start of the pandemic, and therefore may not reflect a real increase in cases.
The highest number of positive tests in the most recent dataset, between August 13 and 20, was found among the 15-44 group, PHE said.
It comes as schools prepare to reopen tomorrow, with some introducing strict new behaviour policies to enforce social distancing requirements.
Around the country, pupils will have to get used to very different rules.
Parents have been warned that their children could be suspended from school if they cannot abide by some of the rules designed to reduce the risk of infection.
And with many schools deciding it is unsafe to put badly behaved children together in detention or alternative classrooms, they will be sent home.
PASSENGER ON ZANTE FLIGHT WITH COVID-19 CASES HITS OUT AT AIRLINE
A furious holidaymaker on board a 193-passenger TUI flight from Zante to Cardiff has hit out at the airline after they were told they all have to self-isolate following 16 positive coronavirus tests.
Passengers who were on TUI flight 6215 on Tuesday are being considered as ‘close contacts’ of those who tested positive for COVID-19, forcing them all to quarantine for two weeks.
Seven of the passengers on the flight tested positive at the time of the journey, and a further nine since, taking the total to 16.
However, one passenger has now hit out at TUI and claimed that the ‘inept’ crew did nothing to ensure social distancing was maintained on the flight.
The furious flyer said she saw fellow passengers take off masks and freely mix with friends and families on board.
Stephanie Whitfield, from Cardiff, who was on the flight with her husband, told the BBC: ‘This flight was a debacle. The chap next to me had his mask around his neck. Not only did the airline not pull him up on it, they gave him a free drink when he said he knew a member of the crew.
‘Loads of people were taking their masks off and wandering up and down the aisles to talk to others.
‘As soon as the flight landed, a load of people took their masks off immediately. The flight was full of selfish ‘covidiots’ and an inept crew who couldn’t care less.’
However, another passenger, Danielle Loughman, defended TUI and told MailOnline that cabin crew repeatedly stressed the importance of wearing masks and fellow passengers had done their best to maintain social distancing.
She said: ‘I was on the flight mentioned above near the back of the plane and have family that were at the front of the plane and neither of us had any issues with people not wearing masks.
‘We were told to not queue for the toilet which was adhered too and didn’t see anyone chatting in the aisles (if they had I would have complained).
‘Whilst I cannot comment about everyone wearing their masks (I was near back so couldn’t see everyone) there was definitely not a mad rush to take them off and everyone still had them on as we went through customs as we all had to lower our masks when checking our passports.
‘Yes the flight was full but Tui did all they could to advise people of the safety measures in place.’
She added that Mrs Whitfield’s complaints had surprised her and ‘it was like we were on different flights’.
There are 16 cases of Covid-19 linked to people who took Tui flight 6215 to Cardiff on August 25, according to Dr Gwen Lowe, consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health Wales, including the seven who had it on the flight.
She said there have been about 30 cases in Wales in the last week that have come back from Zante, confirmed in people who were on different flights and staying in different locations.
One of the most punitive behaviour policies has been introduced by Ark Alexandra Academy in Hastings, East Sussex, which makes it clear that even playground jibes about the pandemic are banned.
In a letter home this month, Jerome Scafe, an associate principal, set out the school’s new ‘coronavirus red lines’.
It warned: ‘The following behaviours may result in a fixed-term exclusion: deliberate or malicious coughs/sneezes at any point; humorous, inappropriate comments or statements related to the coronavirus; purposeful physical contact with any other person; repeated failure to follow instructions within an appropriate timeframe resulting in the student needing to be removed from lesson.’
Byron Academy in Acton, West London, has a new behaviour policy which states: ‘Some behaviours (eg coughing deliberately on another person) that were previously “simply” anti-social, are now potentially extremely serious.’
A pupil who ‘wilfully ignores or refuses to follow instructions relating to hygiene routines and social distancing between year group bubbles’ will be moved and if teachers conclude it is putting others at risk ‘then parents should expect that their child may be excluded’.
And John Flamsteed Community School in Derby said: ‘Students will have specific lavatories that they can use at break and lunchtime – this must be adhered to.
‘Should a student decide not to respect these, this will be treated as a very serious disciplinary matter.’
In other coronavirus news, Sarah Gilbert, the brains behind Oxford University’s Covid-19 vaccine, has warned more diseases with pandemic potential are likely to jump from animals to humans in the near future because of modern lifestyles.
Professor Gilbert said rising world travel and growing populations are driving up the risk of outbreaks of zoonotic infections.
Animal-borne diseases have become more common in recent years because of intense farming for meat and deforestation, which both put animals in closer proximity with each other and to humans.
Professor Gilbert said the current pandemic highlighted how international travel exacerbates the spread of these viruses and bigger populations make them harder to eradicate.
Covid-19’s exact origin is currently unknown, but the consensus is that it originated in bats before jumping to another animal which then passed it to people.
Professor Gilbert, a vaccinologist at Oxford’s Jenner Institute, told The Independent: ‘Because of the way things have been going in the world, it’s more likely we’ll have zoonotic infections causing outbreaks in the future.
‘Greater population density, greater travel, deforestation – all of these things make it more likely that these outbreaks will happen and then something will spread.’
Covid-19 has proven to be the most deadly and contagious zoonotic disease, having claimed the lives of 850,000 people globally and infected more than 25million.
But other deadly examples include Ebola, which originated in monkeys, MERS, which emerged in camels, the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus and rabies, mainly found in dogs. Every year two million people — mostly in poor countries — die of zoonotic disease.
It comes after a United Nations report in July warned the number of outbreaks of such infections will continue to increase unless conservation work is done to protect wildlife.
A ‘zoonotic disease’ is one that is able to be transmitted from a vertebrate animal — such as a mammal, bird, reptile or fish — to a human.