Coronavirus cases in Britain have been on the up for three weeks – with 835 Britons now getting diagnosed each day, on average. The rolling rate is 53 per cent higher than the 546 on July 8, which was the lowest figure since before lockdown.
And health chiefs yesterday recorded 950 more infections in the highest daily toll since June 26 (1,006).
But the number of Brits being diagnosed with Covid-19 is still much lower than what was being recorded during the darkest days of the outbreak in April.
Around 5,000 positive tests were being confirmed each day during the height of the crisis — but this is likely to be a massive under-estimate due to a lack of testing.
Fewer than 20,000 people were getting swabbed for the virus on a daily basis in April. Now more than 100,000 tests are being processed each day.
It suggests that the virus is making a resurgence in the UK, like other European nations. Spain has been forced to reimpose lockdowns and infection rates have doubled in France over the past fortnight.
But top scientists have warned the rise in cases across Britain is down to a spike in testing – and is not reflective of a genuine second wave.
Professor Carl Heneghan, an epidemiologist at Oxford University, said data shows the number of pillar two tests – ones carried out in the community – rose by 80 per cent over the course of July to around 80,000.
And he argued the number of cases spotted for every 100,000 of the tests is ‘flat-lining’, claiming they are actually dropping for pillar one, which are given to NHS and care workers as well as patients in hospital.
Other estimates, however, do also show a rise in cases.
The ONS, which tracks the size of the outbreak in England by carrying out thousands of swab samples, last week estimated cases had doubled from the end of June to mid-July.
The data, considered the most accurate of its kind, was among a series of figures that prompted Boris Johnson to announce he was ‘squeezing the brake pedal’ on easing the coronavirus lockdown.
But it today revealed there is evidence to show infections across the nation have ‘levelled off’. It now estimates 3,700 people are getting infected each day in England – down 12 per cent on the 4,200 prediction the week before.
Other surveillance schemes have seen a similar trend. Experts behind King’s College London’s symptom-tracking app says cases rose 12 per cent from July 23 to July 30, when they said 2,110 people were getting infected each day. But their most recent estimate, released yesterday, says this has dropped again to 1,600.
Testing figures do not show the true number of people infected because many people catch the virus but never test positive for it, either because they don’t realise they are sick, because they couldn’t get a test, or because their result was wrong.
Other measures that reflect if an outbreak is really going up – hospital admissions and deaths – have barely changed in the past month.
Government statistics show fewer than 60 Britons are dying after testing positive for Covid-19 each day. For comparison, more than 1,000 fatalities were being recorded each day during the darkest days of the outbreak in April.
But the speed at which deaths have dropped has slowed.
The rolling seven-day average has dropped 13 per cent since July 18 (68). But it fell three times quicker (42 per cent) between the start of July and the 18th.
Infected patients can take weeks to die from the coronavirus, meaning any up-tick in cases in mid-July are likely to have started trickling through by now.
Hospital admissions — another marker of an outbreak that go up before deaths — have also barely changed in the past week.
Fewer than 150 people needed NHS care for coronavirus on July 29, the most up-to-date figure. Data for days since then are not deemed to be entirely accurate because admissions may still trickle in because of a recording lag.
For comparison, 183 patients were admitted the week before. And more than 3,500 infected Britons were being admitted to hospital each day during the peak of the outbreak.