Cambridge University academics whose gloomy warnings of 4,000 deaths a day spooked ministers into imposing England’s second lockdown have dropped their estimate again.
The ‘Nowcast’ team, which feeds into Number 10’s advisory panel SAGE, estimates there will be between 380 and 610 coronavirus deaths on November 21, based on current trends.
For reference, the academics last week predicted that the number of deaths each day was likely to reach between 380 and 710 on November 14.
In a paper presented to the SAGE sub-group SPI-M, the team warned daily deaths could hit 4,010 by December 1.
Sir Patrick Vallance came under intense scrutiny for ‘frightening’ the public and MPs with the projection, which was presented in Boris Johnson’s TV press conference to announce the restrictions.
The Cambridge team has not provided an updated estimate of how many deaths will occur in six weeks time.
The team’s estimate of the number of people catching Covid each day has also fallen by 17 per cent. They believe 64,000 infections are occurring in England each day — down from 78,000 in the previous model published on November 3.
But instead of conceding that the outbreak is shrinking unlike other academics who insist the peak of the second wave has passed, the team have revised the model to show that the spread of the virus had slowed.
Cambridge’s model estimates that there are now 64,200 people catching coronavirus each day in England. Before lockdown it put the figure at 77,600. The graph appears to still be rising because the earlier estimate has been adjusted down with more up-to-date data
A slide presented on live TV when Boris Johnson announced the second lockdown showed a projection of deaths hitting 4,000 per day by the end of December (blue line) – it was made by Cambridge University experts
WHERE ARE THE MOST PEOPLE CATCHING CORONAVIRUS?
According to Cambridge’s MRC Biostatistics Unit’s report, published today, this is how daily coronavirus infection rates look across England:
CASES PER DAY
North East & Yorks
East of England
The team said that, although their estimate of new daily cases has dropped since last time, the outbreak still appears to be growing.
They said it was too soon for the effects of England’s national lockdown to show through in data.
Writing about the reproductive rate of the virus, which they refer to as Rt and which must come below one for the outbreak to stop getting bigger, they said: ‘The Rt values are above 1 in all regions.
‘The plots of the Rt over time show a plateauing in most regions in the most recent weeks, with downward trends in the North East and Yorkshire and the North West.
‘These lower values of Rt might be the result of various social distancing interventions, but the impact is not strong enough to reduce the Rt values below 1.
‘These trends in the values for Rt and the number of new infections over time have recently been interrupted by the school half-term period, the impact of which is reflected in our model through inclusion of Department for Education attendance and Google mobility data.
‘After this period, the values of Rt revert to their pre-half-term levels.
‘As Rt remains above 1, the number of new infections occurring each day will continue to rise.
THE DATA THAT SHOWS THE SECOND PEAK HAS PASSED
TRUE DAILY INFECTIONS ARE DOWN
Promising figures published Friday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – behind a surveillance scheme that randomly swabs tens of thousands of people to track the size of the outbreak – suggested the country’s coronavirus outbreak had shrunk.
It estimated the number of people getting infected each day dropped 12 per cent in a week from 51,900 to 45,700 in the seven-day spell ending on October 31 – the same day Boris Johnson announced the country was heading into another economically-crippling lockdown.
SECOND WAVE HAS ‘PASSED’
A study by King’s College London last week found the R-rate, which measures the speed at which the virus is spreading, had fallen to one.
Professor Tim Spector, the scientist behind the study, said it was a ‘positive sign we have passed the peak of this second wave’, although he said the lockdown would help squeeze the virus further.
OFFICIAL NUMBERS ARE DOWN, TOO
Department of Health data yesterday showed another 20,572 Covid-19 cases were recorded, taking the total number of confirmed cases since the pandemic started to almost 1.2million.
But the number of diagnosed cases — which is always lower than the true estimated number of infections — was 2,682 lower than the previous Sunday’s figure of 23,254.
INFECTION RATES ARE DROPPING IN MOST OF THE COUNTRY
MailOnline’s analysis of Public Health England (PHE) statistics on Friday showed more than half of local authorities scattered across England saw their infection rates fall at the end of October.
And rates even fell in areas that weren’t in Tier Two or Three lockdowns, suggesting national rules such as the 10pm curfew and rule of six were helping.
UK’S R RATE IS STABLE
SAGE on Friday revealed the UK’s R rate has remained at between 1.1 and 1.3 for the second week in a row.
It has fallen in five out of seven regions in England, including the North West, North East and the Midlands, where 10million people were already living under the toughest Tier Three curbs.
‘The lock-down introduced on the 5th of November will have induced changes in contact patterns that are not yet possible to quantify.
‘These may influence the estimation of Rt in the near future, which will be reflected in the weekly iterations of our model.’
Coronavirus is spreading fastest in the Midlands, the report claims, with almost a third of the country’s daily infections taking place there – some 20,100.
This is followed by the North West, where there are an estimated 12,600 per day, then the North East and Yorkshire (9,060).
The figure is 5,920 per day for London and the South East, 4,830 in the East of England and 3,460 in the South West.
R, it estimates, is highest in the South East and South West (1.44 and 1.43), and lowest in the North West and North East (1.11 and 1.14).
A raft of statistics last week suggested that lockdown may have been a rash move and that the country’s outbreak appeared to be slowing thanks to the three-tier local lockdown system.
Promising figures published on Friday by the ONS – which runs a massive surveillance scheme that randomly swabs tens of thousands of people to track the size of the outbreak – suggest that the country’s coronavirus outbreak has shrunk.
It estimated the number of people getting infected each day dropped 12 per cent in a week from 51,900 to 45,700 in the seven-day spell ending on October 31.
And Public Health England (PHE) statistics showed more than half of local authorities across England saw their infection rates fall at the end of October.
Rates even fell in areas that weren’t in Tier Two or Three lockdowns, suggesting national rules such as the 10pm curfew and rule of six were helping.
Other academics behind a symptom-tracking app are adamant the country’s second wave has already peaked and is over.
Even SAGE admitted there is evidence outbreaks are slowing in ‘some parts’ of England.
But amid growing calls on Number 10 to re-evaluate whether there is truly any need for the entire nation to be hit by the toughest rules since the spring, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘The lockdown is for four weeks to the 2nd December.
‘As we have said the trend of hospital admissions are going up.’
It can take coronavirus patients several weeks to fall severely ill, meaning admissions and deaths will continue to spike because cases are still high.
But eminent doctors and scientists argue wards are no busier than usual for this time of year and that there is still plenty of space across the nation to treat the infected.
In the North West there are an estimated 12,600 new infections per day, along with 9,060 the North East and Yorkshire – although these areas account for two of the three areas with highest transmission, they also have the lowest R rates, suggesting outbreak growth is beginning to slow
The Midlands (right) accounts for almost a third of all new daily infections at 20,000, the researchers estimate, while London is only seeing around 6,000 per day
The South East and South West continue to have some of the country’s the lowest infection rates but also have the highest R rates so must be closely watched