Britain’s Covid crisis appears to be growing again as daily cases increased week-on-week for the fourth day running amid fears of a delayed back to school surge.
Department of Health bosses posted 31,564 new coronavirus infections today, up 18.5 per cent on the 26,628 recorded last Tuesday.
Cases had been falling for the nine days prior to Saturday, suggesting the UK may finally be seeing the effect of the return to schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland at the start of the month. Experts warned that classrooms reopening would cause a sharp uptick in infections.
Deaths also increased today, with the number of people dying within 28 days of testing positive for the virus increasing to 203. This was up 9.7 per cent of last Tuesday’s 185.
But Covid hospital admissions are continuing to fall, with 861 new patients recorded last Thursday — the latest date data is available for — down 25 per cent on the previous week.
It was the sixth day in a row hospitalisations fell week-on-week but admission figures tend to follow trends in cases more than a week after any changes.
Both hospital and death data lag behind trends in cases by a few weeks due to the time it takes to fall seriously ill with the virus.
Separate figures show more than 122,000 children in England were out of school for Covid-related reasons last week, either because they tested positive for the virus or were in close contact with someone who had.
Cradoc Primary School in Brecon, in the Welsh county Powys, was sent home today after almost half the school recorded positive Covid test results.
Health chiefs last week signed off on plans to start vaccinating children against the virus to prevent further disruptions to education, despite admitting the direct benefit of vaccination to their health was ‘marginal’.
The vaccines began to be rolled out yesterday and 3million healthy children between 12 and 15 are now eligible.
ENGLAND: Cases appear to be relatively flat in England despite schools reopening at the start of the month but the data for the four nations of the UK is slightly behind that for the UK in total
SCOTLAND: Infections are continuing drop massively in Scotland after peaking shortly after schools reopened slightly earlier in the country
WALES (left) AND NORTHERN IRELAND (right): Cases have picked up again in Wales after briefly dropping off, while they continue to trend down in Northern Ireland
Tories slam No10 over ‘perverse’ move to give over-12s Covid vaccines
Tories today slammed the ‘perverse’ decision to extend the Covid vaccine rollout to children as young as 12.
In the first parliamentary debate about the controversial expansion of the jab drive, Conservative MPs said it did not make sense now that Britain was ‘through the worst of the pandemic’.
They questioned the move to leave the final say on vaccination with children, if they are deemed competent enough, given that experts are torn on the health benefits and ethics.
Britain began inoculating healthy secondary school-aged children with a single dose of Pfizer‘s vaccine for the first time yesterday.
It did so despite originally not getting the blessing from No10’s vaccines advisory panel, which said the health benefit to youngsters was ‘marginal’.
The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) left the decision to Chris Whitty and the chief medical officers in the devolved nations. They signed off on the plans on the basis that it could prevent hundreds of thousands of school absences.
Bolton West MP Chris Green said in the Commons: ‘In many ways we can objectively say we are through the worst of the pandemic and yet the more draconian or authoritarian measures are being introduced at this stage. It’s perverse.’
It comes as:
- A study suggested an extra 10,000 people are likely to die of cancer because of the Covid pandemic;
- America’s top Covid doctor today suggested Britons vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab will be allowed into the US when travel restrictions are eased this autumn;
- Tories today slammed the ‘perverse’ decision to extend the Covid vaccine rollout to children as young as 12;
- Top doctors today fought back against calls for face-to-face GP appointments to become the default again, claiming that it was ‘undeliverable’.
Government figures show about one in 10 children were out of class last Thursday due to Covid.
The Department for Education (DfE) estimates 1.5 per cent of all pupils – around 122,300 children – were not in school for Covid-19 related reasons on Thursday last week.
The figures include 59,300 pupils with a confirmed case of Covid-19, 44,600 with a suspected case and 15,900 absent due to isolation for other reasons.
A further 2,000 pupils were off due to attendance restrictions being in place to manage an outbreak and 500 did not attend as a result of school closures due to Covid-related reasons.
It comes as schools in England no longer have to keep pupils in year group ‘bubbles’ to reduce mixing and children do not have to isolate if they come into contact with a positive case of Covid-19.
Instead, they need to get a PCR test and isolate only if positive.
Headteachers’ unions have warned that educational disruption remains ‘significant’ and some schools are already struggling to keep classes open.
Some 91.9 per cent of students were in class on Thursday last week (September 16), according to the DfE analysis. In comparison, approximately 87 per cent of students were in class on September 17 last year.
All secondary school and college pupils have been invited to take two lateral flow tests at school, three to five days apart, in England on their return.
Schools and colleges are being encouraged to maintain increased hygiene and ventilation and secondary school and college pupils have been asked to continue to test twice weekly at home.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: ‘It is clear from the fact that over 100,000 pupils were absent from school last week with a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus that educational disruption remains significant.
‘We are hearing of schools where significant numbers of pupils are absent.
‘We are hopeful that the vaccination programme for 12 to 15-year-olds will help to reduce this level of disruption. However, the Government must also take more action to support schools and colleges.’
The above graph shows Covid’s rank in terms of deaths triggered in England since July last year. It reveals that the virus surged to number one between November and February during the second wave. It is now rising again, and was the third leading cause of death in August
Covid has become the third leading cause of death in England, official figures showed today. They revealed that over August there were 2,162 deaths mentioning the virus. Only dementia (4,417 deaths) and heart disease (3,982) sparked more deaths. There were 2,150 deaths due to lung cancer
The Office for National Statistics released a separate report today showing weekly deaths due to Covid had risen by almost a third in a week. They said there were 857 deaths that mentioned the virus, but pointed out the sharp rise is likely due to the bank holiday at the start of September, which delayed reporting of figures
Extra 10,000 Britons may die of cancer due to Covid pandemic delays fuelled by a drop in emergency referrals from GPs, report warns
An extra 10,000 people are likely to die of cancer because of the Covid pandemic, a study has suggested.
University College London researchers said a drop in emergency referrals from GPs last year across the UK resulted in around 40,000 late diagnoses of the disease.
These delays and longer waits for NHS treatment — fuelled by the pandemic — mean thousands will die ‘significantly earlier’ from the disease than would have been the case pre-pandemic.
The study of more than 2,000 adults found nearly two thirds of people worried about bothering family doctors with ‘minor health problems’ because of Covid.
And during the first lockdown last year, the NHS moved GP appointments to online and telephone to limit face-to-face consultations. No10’s ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’ messaging put people off coming forward, meaning their symptoms were never investigated.
It comes after Boris Johnson yesterday piled pressure on GPs to offer more face-to-face consultations amid concerns too many patients are struggling to see a doctor in-person.
Just 57 per cent of GP appointments are now in person compared with 80 per cent before the pandemic.
A senior coroner in Manchester earlier this month concluded a lack of face-to-face care contributed to at least five deaths in the area during the pandemic.
Downing Street said last night: ‘The public rightly may choose to want to see their GP face to face — and GP practices should be making that facility available to their patients.’
Charities and politicians are urging the Prime Minister to act amid fears that cancers and other serious health conditions are being missed in remote consultations.
The Government should launch a public information campaign to encourage twice-weekly home-testing among pupils and provide funding for high-quality ventilation systems in schools and colleges, the union has said.
In July, figures showed that a record 1.13 million children in England were out of school for Covid-19 related reasons towards the end of term.
Rules at the time said children had to self-isolate for 10 days if another pupil in their bubble – which can be an entire year group – tested positive for Covid-19.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said the latest numbers reflect changes to government policy which requires fewer pupils to self-isolate when there is a positive case in school.
But he added: ‘It’s important to note that these national figures mask some significant issues arising at a local level, and we already know of schools that are struggling to keep classes open due to outbreaks occurring.
‘It is crucial that both central and local government are now on high alert and are ready to react quickly if and when cases rise rapidly or outbreaks occur. The next few weeks will be crucial.’
Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said: ‘The Conservatives’ chaotic failure to plan ahead or to listen to Labour, parents and teachers and get ventilation and mitigations in place saw over 122,000 children out of school again last week. This is not good enough.
‘The Conservatives have left schools in a mess, the new Education Secretary urgently needs to set this right.’
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘My priority is to make sure children are in school and back to face-to-face learning. That’s the best place for them to be, so it’s fantastic to see more than 91% of them back in the classroom with their teachers and friends, compared to 87% this time last year.
‘That’s down to the hard work of teachers, support staff as well as families whose efforts have been heroic in making sure children can get back to school safely.
‘The rollout of the vaccine to those aged 12-15, which started this week, is another significant step in building the walls of protection from the virus across society.’
Meanwhile, a whole primary school was sent home in Powys after almost half the school recorded positive Covid test results.
Forty per cent of pupils and 50 per cent of staff tested positive at Cradoc Primary School in Brecon over the last couple of weeks, since term resumed in early September, which the local authority said left the school with no alternative but to close.
Lynette Lovell, interim chief executive of Powys County Council, said: ‘We can confirm that Cradoc Primary School has closed due to rising Covid cases.
‘Despite the school’s best efforts to mitigate the risk of infection among pupils and staff, including limited contact groups, daytime cleaning, handwashing, ventilation and outdoor learning, the number of positive cases within the school has increased significantly over the past couple of weeks with approximately 40 per cent of pupils and 50 per cent of staff currently testing positive.’
The news comes as Year 9 at Cwmtawe Community High School near Pontardawe have also been sent home for a week due to high cases.
A Neath Port Talbot council spokesman said: ‘Staff at the school have taken regular LFD tests. Staff have now taken every precaution to safeguard pupils and themselves. However, the impact of staff illness and self-isolation has made it impossible to operate the school safely for all year groups this week.
‘The health and safety of our pupils and staff is of paramount importance, so, from Monday September 20 up to Friday September 24, Year 9 pupils will move to home learning.
‘We will continue to closely monitor the situation throughout the week. All Year 9 pupils should log on to Microsoft Teams via Hwb and follow their usual timetable. Teachers will make every effort to ensure appropriate work is available and, where possible, live lessons will take place.’
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