Infections across the country have been dipping for seven days, reaching 23,5111 yesterday — barely half the level seen just a week ago.
A senior minister last night claimed the coronavirus’s grip on the UK is ‘all over bar the shouting’.
But SAGE adviser Professor Mike Tildesley warned the pandemic isn’t all over ‘quite yet’, and warned the effects of ‘Freedom Day’ are still yet to be seen in the data.
And Boris Johnson today said it was ‘too early’ to draw conclusions about the fall in the number of people testing positive for the virus.
Scientists say temporary factors like schools closing, last week’s hot weather and the end of the Euros effect could be behind the decline.
Professor Tildesley, an infectious disease modeller at the University of Warwick, said the falls could also have occurred because people are less willing to get a test ahead of summer holidays. Testing has fallen by 14 per cent in the last week, compared to cases which have dropped by 31 per cent in the same time.
Asked about the decline, he told Times Radio: ‘Because schools in England closed last week, we haven’t got secondary school pupils doing regular lateral flow testing and so we’re not necessarily detecting as many cases in younger people.
‘It’s also been suggested by some that, possibly, because of a high number of cases, because of the summer holidays approaching, people might be less willing to “step up” to testing when they have symptoms.
‘What we really need to do is monitor hospital admissions, because at the moment of course they’re still going up — now, of course there is a lag when cases go down, it always takes a couple of weeks before hospital admissions turn around.
‘But if we start to see hospital admissions going down as well then I think we would have much stronger evidence to suggest this third wave is starting to turn around.’
Professor Tildesley (left), an infectious disease modeller at the University of Warwick, said the falls could also have occurred because people are less willing to get a test ahead of summer holidays. Boris Johnson (right) today said it was ‘too early’ to draw conclusions about the fall in the number of people testing positive for the virus
Testing has fallen by 14 per cent in the last week, compared to cases which have dropped by 31 per cent in the same time
Holidaymakers face chaos with Spain ‘on verge of amber plus list’ for quarantine but France could be DOWNGRADED
Holidaymakers could face fresh chaos amid claims Spain is on the verge of being placed on the ‘amber plus’ list for quarantine.
The move — which could leave hundreds of thousands of Britons having to self-isolate unexpectedly on return – is believed to be on the cards amid growing concern about cases of the South African variant.
The speculation comes as the ‘Covid O’ group of ministers are meeting today to sign off exempting double-jabbed European and US travellers from quarantine rules in England.
Despite Labour branding it ‘reckless’, the easing looks almost certain to go ahead after Boris Johnson voiced concerns the EU was further ahead in welcoming international travellers than the UK and risk ‘squandering its vaccine bonus’.
There is also a new wave of optimism after coronavirus cases tumbled for a seventh day running – with ministers privately claiming the crisis is now ‘all over bar the shouting’.
Boris Johnson said this morning that dropping self-isolation rules for people who are ‘pinged’ is ‘nailed on’ for August 16.
But he is defying furious Tory demands for the date to be brought forward, amid warnings from businesses of food shortages caused by so many staff being off.
As the country waits anxiously for the next phase of the pandemic:
- The International Monetary Fund upgraded its forecasts to predict the UK economy would bounce back with 7 per cent growth this year;
- Boris Johnson has slapped down Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove for branding vaccine refusers ‘selfish’ and warning they could be barred from venues;
- The Department of Health admitted daily testing was just as effective as self-isolation;
- New figures revealed a record 1.13million children were off school in the final week of term because of self-isolation rules;
- Leaked Covid hospitalisation figures suggested almost half of patients tested positive only after being admitted;
- A further 131 virus-related deaths were reported – the highest figure since March – while Covid patients in hospital rose to 5,918.
Professor Tildesley said Covid ‘isn’t necessarily all over bar the shouting quite yet’.
He added: ‘I think people are aware that Covid isn’t quite over.
‘I really hope that this is the turnaround of the third wave and as we get towards the autumn we really are very much getting back to normal.
‘But I think, actually, people are doing pretty well at using their own judgment and exercising caution when necessary.
‘It’s pretty clear that we are not back to kind of pre-pandemic levels of mixing — people aren’t socialising in the same way they were before the pandemic, hopefully that will come.
‘But I think that’s probably partly what we’re seeing in the data – that we’re not seeing a big surge in infections because people are taking a little bit of time to get back to normality.’
He added that the high level of protection from the vaccines should put the UK in a ‘better position’ in the winter, but added that it is possible a variant of concern could emerge.
Britons going on holiday abroad have to get tested, so they will not have contributed to the downturn in testing seen over the last week.
But with the current chaos around travel, staycations have become evermore popular this summer and experts fear those headed for vacations in Britain are deliberately not getting tests to avoid being told to isolate ahead of planned trips.
Professor Tildesley’s comments come after Boris Johnson urged caution about getting carried away with the current trend in cases.
Mr Johnson told LBC this morning: ‘We’ve seen some encouraging recent data, there’s no question about that, but it is far, far too early to draw any general conclusions.
‘The most important thing is for people to recognise that the current situation still calls for a lot of caution and for people just to remember that the virus is still out there, that a lot of people have got it, it still presents a significant risk.’
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose models were the basis for the original lockdown, said he was now ‘positive’ the UK would be past the worst of the pandemic by October
Boris Johnson slaps down Michael Gove for branding vaccine refusers ‘selfish’
The PM insisted he would not use the jibe and getting jabs should instead be seen as a ‘positive thing to do’.
Pointing to plans to require proof of vaccination for entry to nightclubs and events, Mr Johnson said individuals would be ‘helping’ themselves as well as society.
The rebuke came after Cabinet Office minister Mr Gove stepped up his rhetoric despite a gathering Tory mutiny over the prospect of demanding evidence of jabs, with a vote on the cards for September.
Keir Starmer appears to have softened his opposition to the measures by suggesting he could get on board if a negative test can be used as evidence as well as vaccination documentation.
On a visit to the Lighthouse testing lab in Glasgow, Mr Gove warned those who decline to be jabbed are ‘putting other people’s lives at risk’.
‘Ultimately, if you can be vaccinated and you refuse to, that is a selfish act,’ he said.
‘You’re putting other people’s health and lives at risk, you should get vaccinated.’
The Prime Minister also insisted scrapping self-isolation rules for the double jabbed is ‘nailed on’ for August 16.
He hailed the seven-day run of cases falling in the UK, but stressed it is ‘far too early to draw any general conclusions’.
Pressed during an interview with LBC over the schedule for exempting vaccinated individuals who have been in contact with a positive case, Mr Johnson said: ‘August 16 is nailed on – there has never been any question of a review date for August 16.’
However, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey dismissed calls from ‘pingdemic’-hit businesses for the timetable to be brought forward, saying there was ‘strong medical advice’ for delay.
One senior minister told the Mail the vaccination programme, coupled with more than 5.7million infections, meant the virus was struggling to find new hosts and some kind of population immunity had effectively been reached.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said there was now no justification for delaying the change in the rules that will allow double vaccinated people to avoid self-isolation.
‘The fall in cases that we have seen shows we should have had greater faith in the vaccines,’ he said.
‘We must now move immediately to a position where people do not have to isolate if they have been fully vaccinated.’
But Ms Coffey told Sky News: ‘The very strong medical advice is that we should keep to that date.’
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are among a number of senior ministers thought to be concerned about the impact of the ‘pingdemic’.
One Whitehall source said it was clear that a test and release scheme could have been introduced much earlier.
Mr Sunak and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden are understood to be pushing for the change in quarantine rules for foreign tourists, which could start in August.
A senior minister told the Mail: ‘It is all over bar the shouting, but no one has noticed.
‘Of course we have to guard against the emergence of some terrible new variant. But otherwise Covid is on the point of becoming something you live with.
‘It drops into the background, but it does not change anything terribly – maybe you have to take a test once in a while.’
Asked whether Britain was at the point of herd immunity, the minister added: ‘Factually we are. We are there It’s just a fact, as around 90 per cent of adults have had a first dose of a vaccine. We are there.’
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose models were the basis for the original lockdown, said yesterday he was now ‘positive’ the UK would be past the worst of the pandemic by October.
Scientists said it was unclear why cases were falling so fast but warm weather, school holidays and the end of the Euros football championships were potential factors.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, said the unprecedented drop suggested a corner had been turned. ‘The case numbers are now falling really, really quickly and, although there may be some blips, I think we could be on a long-term downward trend,’ he said.
‘We should soon reach an endemic equilibrium, where the virus is held in check by varying levels of natural and vaccine-induced immunity.’