Coronavirus UK: Death toll hits 42,647 with 15 new fatalities

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Britain today announced just 15 more Covid-19 deaths in the lowest daily toll since 10 days before lockdown was introduced as the outbreak that once terrorized the nation continues to fizzle out. 

Department of Health statistics show 42,647 Britons have now died after testing positive for the coronavirus — but the actual number of fatalities has already topped 50,000 when all suspected fatalities are taken into account. 

And official statistics show just 958 more cases of the disease were diagnosed in the lowest 24-hour jump since Boris Johnson imposed the draconian restrictions to halt the outbreak on March 23 (967). 

It comes as the Prime Minister gets prepared to unveil a major loosening of social distancing rules tomorrow and is expected to announce an expansion of social ‘bubbles’ where people can mix freely.

The move is only possible because of the low levels of coronavirus, with Matt Hancock tonight saying only one in every 1,700 people are currently infected — down from one in 400 just weeks ago. 

The Health Secretary also revealed fewer than 5,000 coronavirus-infected Brits were in hospital for the first time since the peak of the crisis and said: ‘We are clearly making progress.’

In tonight’s Downing Street press conference, he said: ‘Thanks to the patience and sacrifice of everyone watching, infection rates are falling, the NHS is restoring and the virus is in retreat.’ 

The increase in deaths is the smallest one-day rise since March 13, when just one fatality was announced. Fifteen Covid-19 deaths were also registered across all settings in Britain two days later on March 15.

Scotland has recorded zero deaths on six occasions in June, including no victims for the last two days. Northern Ireland has had no fatalities for 72 hours and the East of England today saw no new victims. 

Separate analysis today showed more than 100 NHS trusts in England have now gone 48 hours without recording a single Covid-19 death — the equivalent of almost 80 per cent of all hospitals.

Although the number of deaths is always lower on Sundays and Mondays because of weekend delays to records, experts are convinced the virus is fading in the UK. 

One top scientist predicted last month that deaths were on track to hit zero by July, while a study published today suggested daily new confirmed cases could fall to nought within three weeks.  

In other developments to the coronavirus crisis in Britain today: 

  • The long wait for family reunions could be coming to an end as it was revealed that the Prime Minister is preparing to announce a dramatic easing of lockdown this week;
  • Tube passengers on the Jubilee Line were still flouting face mask rules a week after it became law to wear them on public transport; 
  • Spain appealed for British tourists to visit, with a minister insisting the country was now a ‘particularly’ safe place and that holidays will not be ‘radically’ affected by temperature checks and health forms;
  • Three quarters of Britons want Boris Johnson and senior ministers to take a pay cut in solidarity with millions of workers hammered by the coronavirus lockdown;
  • The government could have effectively gone bust if the Bank of England had not bailed it out at the start of the coronavirus crisis, governor Andrew Bailey said;
  • House viewings may be stopped and the property market moved back into lockdown as buyers and sellers fail to take adequate safety precautions, an industry boss warned;
  • World Health Organization figures revealed 183,020 Covid-19 infections were recorded on June 21, marking the worst day of the pandemic since it began in December;
  • Disneyland Paris will begin a ‘gradual’ re-opening on July 15, the resort announced today with the theme park having been closed since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What changes is the PM expected to make tomorrow? 

Boris Johnson is widely expected to announce a raft of easements to the lockdown restrictions tomorrow. 

They would come into effect from July 4 – in less than a fortnight. 

They are believed to include: 

  • Two-metre rule relaxed
  • Expansion of support ‘bubbles’ to allow two households where both have more than one person in them to mingle indoors.
  • Pubs, bars and restaurants reopen  
  • Barbers and hairdressers are able to reopen 

HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE REALLY DIED?

Department of Health: 42,647

Department of Health’s latest death count for all settings stands at 42,647.

The daily data does not represent how many Covid-19 patients died within the last 24 hours — it is only how many fatalities have been reported and registered with the authorities. 

It also only takes into account patients who tested positive for the virus, as opposed to deaths suspected to be down to the coronavirus.  

National statistical bodies: 52,664

Data compiled by the statistical bodies of each of the home nations show 52,664 people died of either confirmed or suspected Covid-19 across the UK by the end of May.

The real number of victims will be even higher because the tally only takes into account deaths that occurred up until June 7 in Scotland and June 5 in the rest of Britain, meaning it is up to 10 days out of date.

The Office for National Statistics yesterday confirmed that 47,820 people in England and Wales died with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 by May 29.

The number of coronavirus deaths was 774 by the same day in Northern Ireland, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

National Records Scotland — which collects statistics north of the border — said 4,070 people had died across the country by June 7.

Their tallies are always 10 days behind the Department of Health (DH) because they wait until as many fatalities as possible for each date have been counted, to avoid having to revise their statistics.

Excess deaths: 64,402

The total number of excess deaths has now passed 64,000. 

Excess deaths are considered to be an accurate measure of the number of people killed by the pandemic because they include a broader spectrum of victims.

As well as including people who may have died with Covid-19 without ever being tested, the data also shows how many more people died because their medical treatment was postponed, for example, or who didn’t or couldn’t get to hospital when they were seriously ill.

Data from England and Wales shows there has been an extra 58,693 deaths between March 21 and June 5, as well as 4,769 in Scotland between March 23 and June 7 and 940 in Northern Ireland between March 21 and June 5. 

Department of Health data released this afternoon showed that 139,659 tests were carried out yesterday, a figure that included antibody tests for frontline NHS and care workers.

But bosses again refused to say how many people were tested, meaning the exact number of Brits who have been swabbed for the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been a mystery for a month — since May 22.

Another 958 cases were diagnosed, taking the official size of the outbreak to 305,289 infections. But the true size of the crisis is estimated to be in the millions.   

The daily death data does not represent how many Covid-19 patients died within the last 24 hours — it is only how many fatalities have been reported and registered with the authorities.

The data does not always match updates provided by the home nations. For example, the Scottish government on Thursday announced two deaths – but the DH recorded nine north of the border.

Department of Health officials work off a different time cut-off, meaning daily updates from Scotland as well as Northern Ireland are always out of sync. Wales is not thought to be affected.

And the count announced by NHS England every afternoon — which only takes into account deaths in hospitals — does not match up with the DH figures because they work off a different recording system.  

For instance, some deaths announced by NHS England bosses will have already been counted by the Department of Health, which records fatalities ‘as soon as they are available’.

NHS England today announced 20 victims in hospitals — all of whom were aged between 55 and 98. Wales posted one fatality in all settings and Scotland and Northern Ireland recorded none. 

Two leading experts based at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University today calculated that 104 hospital trusts in England haven’t had a death reported in the past two days.

Professor Carl Heneghan and Dr Jason Oke added that 51 trusts — just under 40 per cent — had no Covid-19 occurs in the past week. 

As the UK’s coronavirus outbreak continues to fade, with some researchers predicting the numbers of deaths and positive tests will drop to zero in July, the rest of the world continues to battle the fast-spreading virus.

WHO bosses confirmed yesterday — Sunday, June 21 — was the worst 24-hour spell of the pandemic so far, which began in China in December and quickly spread across the planet. 

Its statistics revealed 183,020 Covid-19 infections were recorded — topping the previous record-high of 181,000 reported three days earlier, on Thursday, June 18. 

Nearly a third of cases occurred in Brazil (54,771) followed by the US (36,617) and India (15,413) — taking the overall number of infections past 8.7million. More than 460,000 deaths have been recorded.

But the actual number of Covid-19 cases since the virus was first spotted in China in December will be drastically higher because of a lack of mass testing and the large proportion of asymptomatic cases — people who don’t know they are ill.

Despite clear progress in containing the virus in some regions, especially those that saw early outbreaks, globally the number of new cases has soared in recent days. Hospitals are scrambling to cope in Brazil, Iraq and India.

Meanwhile, a pair of economists from London have estimated that the first wave of Britain’s coronavirus outbreak will end by July 13.

Analysis of the number of people testing positive each day suggests it will hit zero in all four nations within the next three weeks. 

Wales will be first to hit the milestone on June 28, according to the projection. Public Health Wales said 100 people were diagnosed with the virus on Saturday.

Northern Ireland will then follow suit on July 2 and Scotland on July 3. England will achieve the feat on July 13, the researchers claim.

The Department of Health is still diagnosing an average of 1,219 people each day — 0.8 per cent of the 150,000 tests it claims to be doing, on average.

But there are thought to be an extra 2,000 to 3,000 people catching the virus each day, with many of them not getting tested or not even realising they are ill.

WHERE ARE THE 104 NHS TRUSTS IN ENGLAND THAT HAVE RECORDED NO COVID-19 DEATHS IN THE PAST 48 HOURS?

Experts are all but certain there will be future outbreaks of the disease but improved testing and surveillance mean they are likely to be smaller and better contained than the nationwide crisis that crippled Britain this time around. 

It comes as it was revealed today that the long wait for family reunions could be coming to an end as Number 10 prepares to announce a dramatic easing of lockdown this week.

The Prime Minister is expected to announce an expansion of social ‘bubbles’ where people are allowed to mix freely, as he moves England into a new phase of coronavirus recovery.

The changes will be unveiled tomorrow along with a reduction in the two-metre social distancing rule, which businesses insist is crucial to breathe new life back into the tanking economy. 

But there are big questions over how the new system will work, amid claims that just two households might be allowed to form ‘bubbles’. That could leave families forced to make agonising choices between sets of grandparents, friends and relatives.

Downing Street has also warned that Mr Johnson will not hesitate to put the ‘handbrake’ on again if infections start to surge – amid worrying signs that Germany is experiencing another flare-up.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered a coded rebuke to the PM this afternoon, saying it was ‘tempting’ to behave ‘recklessly’ by trying to ‘get back to normal’.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is considering allowing six people to meet indoors, after a slump in the number of cases suggested lockdown can be unwound faster there.

Current guidelines in England allow for groups of up to six to meet in the open air, while staying over two metres apart.

Only those living together, or who have chosen to expand their ‘support bubble’ to include another person who lives alone, can touch or be closer than two metres.

Mr Johnson has been meeting his closest ministers, advisers, and medical and science chiefs to thrash out the new arrangements today. They will then be signed off by Cabinet tomorrow before the premier unveils them in the House of Commons.

Nicola Sturgeon tore into Mr Johnson today over his plans to ease the lockdown still further in England, branding him ‘reckless’.

Scotland’s First Minister said it was ‘tempting’ to try to rush to get the nation ‘back to normal’ but suggested that the move should not be rushed amid new spikes in cases in some countries.

Ms Sturgeon said: ‘The virus hasn’t gone away, there are already countries – China and Germany for example – that are right now dealing with spikes in cases as a result of significant outbreaks. And health officials in South Korea have said they think the country is now experiencing a second wave.

‘I know that when numbers of cases and deaths here are continuing to fall it is very tempting for all of us to think it is all over and we should just now quickly get back to normal.

‘We are trying to get back to normal and we want to do that as quickly as possible, but let me reiterate my strong view that acting recklessly now would be a serious mistake.

‘We must continue to be cautious and all of us must continue to adhere strictly to the public health advice. That will help us continue progress and avoid a resurgence of the virus now.

‘But it will also hopefully put us in a much stronger position ahead of the winter months to come.’

In other developments, Spain today appealed for British tourists to visit saying their holidays will not be ‘radically’ affected by temperature checks and health forms.

Minister Manuel Muniz insisted Spain is now a ‘particularly safe place’ with coronavirus rates that are ‘among the lowest in the world’.

And he insisted that the decision not to impose any quarantine, even though the UK is forcing incomers from the country to isolate, was based on confidence that the disease is ‘under control’.

The first Britons started arriving in Spain yesterday after Madrid lifted its ban on foreign tourists and opened its beaches in glorious 100 degree-plus heat.

Travel firms have slashed the price of a one-week holiday to £300 after Downing Street signalled ‘travel corridors’ could be introduced to 10 countries from July 4, with no 14-day quarantine on return to the UK.

A small Ryanair fleet is shuttling people to the south of Spain this week.

Spain’s reopening after three months of lockdown comes as travel firms have seized on talk of ‘air bridges,’ and hacked down prices in an effort to tempt families and older passengers into a summer beach break.

Seven-night package deals are down 34 per cent for Prague, 26 per cent fo Zante, 16 per cent for Venice, 15 percent for Marrakech, 14 per cent for Canary Islands, 13 per cent for New York, 12 per cent for the Balearic Islands and 10 per cent for Turkish resorts.

On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Muniz played down the UK government’s decision to maintain quarantine – which Spain at one point had threatened to reciprocate.

‘We have always wanted to open the border as soon as possible,’ he said. ‘The disease is under control across the Spanish territory.’

He added: ‘Spain is now a particularly safe place because we have undergone a very strict quarantine and confinement for a period. Cases in Spain are now amongst the lowest in the world.’

The government could have effectively gone bust if the Bank of England had not bailed it out at the start of the coronavirus crisis, governor Andrew Bailey said today.

Mr Bailey said chaos in the bond markets and on the exchange rates meant the Treasury could have ‘struggled to fund itself’.

The extraordinary admission comes after the Bank expanded its quantitative easing programme – printing money – to £745billion last week.

Mr Bailey reversed a policy from the era of predecessor Mark Carney this morning by saying the huge commitment could be unwound before interest rates rise significantly from their historic low of 0.1 per cent. Mr Carney had insisted that rates should be at least 1.5 per cent before the bonds are bought back.

The government has been borrowing huge sums to finance its response to the disease over recent months. Public debt is bigger than GDP for the first time in 57 years, with the state borrowing £55billion in May alone 

The worst day of the Covid-19 pandemic yet: World Health Organization figures reveal 183,000 cases of coronavirus were diagnosed on June 21 in the biggest 24-hour jump since the crisis began

The world saw the largest daily increase yet in coronavirus cases yesterday, official statistics have shown as the pandemic continues to accelerate and wreak havoc globally.

World Health Organization (WHO) figures revealed 183,020 Covid-19 infections were recorded on Sunday, June 21 — topping the previous high of 181,000 on Thursday, June 18. 

Nearly a third occurred in Brazil (54,771) followed by the US (36,617) and India (15,413) — taking the overall number of infections past 8.7million. More than 460,000 deaths have been recorded.

But the actual number of Covid-19 cases since the virus was first spotted in China in December will be drastically higher because of a lack of mass-testing and the large proportion of asymptomatic cases. 

Despite clear progress in containing the virus in some regions, especially those that saw early outbreaks, globally the number of new cases has soared in recent days. Hospitals are scrambling to cope in Brazil, Iraq and India.

It comes amid claims from a top Italian doctor that the coronavirus — once considered an ‘aggressive tiger’ of a disease — has weakened and become more like a wild cat, raising hopes it could die out on its own. 

WHO figures appear to add weight to the controversial theory, with the rolling three-day average of deaths having dropped from nearly 5,400 at the start of June to below 4,000 yesterday. 

COVID-19 IS BECOMING WEAKER, TOP DOCTOR CLAIMS 

The coronavirus, once an ‘aggressive tiger’ of a disease, has weakened and become more like a wild cat, according to a top Italian doctor.

Professor Matteo Bassetti said he is convinced the virus is ‘changing in severity’ and patients are now surviving infections that would have killed them before. 

And if the virus’s weakening is true, Covid-19 could even disappear without a for a vaccine by becoming so weak it dies out on its own, he claimed. 

He has said multiple times in recent months that patients with Covid-19 seem to be faring much better than they were at the start of the epidemic in Italy.

Professor Bassetti suggests this could be because of a genetic mutation in the virus making it less lethal, because of improved treatments, or because people are not getting infected with such large doses because of social distancing. 

But other scientists have hit back at the claims in the past and said there is no scientific evidence that the virus has changed at all.

 

Experts say rising case counts reflect multiple factors, including more testing and spreading infections. But the death rate — which has remained fairly stable — adds to the slim evidence that the virus is weakening. 

Still, in east Asia there were signs of progress as South Korea, which dodged a crisis early on in the outbreak, reported 17 new cases — the first time its daily increase fell to under 20 in nearly a month.

Officials in the country have recorded at least 50 new cases a day in the past few weeks, amid more public activity, eased attitudes on social distancing and an uptick in imported cases.

Elsewhere in Asia, the increase in the Chinese capital of Beijing was in single digits for the first time in eight days. It reported nine cases after thousands of people were tested for the life-threatening virus. 

Millions of people in Beijing have been rounded up and forced back into lockdown amid a new outbreak that Chinese officials have blamed on imported European salmon.

Even in New Zealand, which earlier declared victory over the outbreak and said it had eliminated local transmissions of the virus, two new cases were reported on Monday. The country now has nine active cases after having none at all earlier this month.

More than two thirds of the 4,743 new Covid-19 deaths were reported in the Americas — 1,206 were confirmed in Brazil alone. It means the Americas — which includes North, Central and South — have endured 219,000 fatalities and 4.2million cases.

WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week warned the Covid-19 pandemic had entered a ‘new and dangerous’ phase, warning the virus was still spreading fast and it is ‘still deadly’. 

Dr Tedros, who has been under fire for spouting Beijing propaganda, urged people to maintain social distancing and ‘extreme vigilance’. Another WHO director warned a second wave in the autumn was possible.

German officials yesterday revealed the coronavirus reproduction rate has jumped to 2.88, taking infections above the level needed to contain it over the longer term.

GERMANY’S R RATE JUMPS FROM 1.79 TO 2.88 IN ONE DAY 

Germany's coronavirus reproduction rate has jumped to 2.88, taking infections above the level needed to contain it over the longer term

Germany’s coronavirus reproduction rate has jumped to 2.88, taking infections above the level needed to contain it over the longer term

Germany’s coronavirus reproduction rate has jumped to 2.88, taking infections above the level needed to contain it over the longer term.

The figure on Sunday marks an increase from 1.79 a day earlier, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health said.

A reproduction rate, or ‘R’, of 2.88 means that out of 100 people who contracted the virus, a further 288 other people will get infected. A rate of less than one is needed to gradually contain the disease.

The number, a sharp increase from 1.06 on Friday, is based on RKI’s moving 4-day average data, which reflects infection rates one to two weeks ago.

The figure on Sunday marks an increase from 1.79 a day earlier, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health said.

A reproduction rate, or ‘R’, of 2.88 means that out of 100 people who contracted the virus, a further 288 other people will get infected. A rate of less than one is needed to gradually contain the disease.

The number, a sharp increase from 1.06 on Friday, is based on RKI’s moving 4-day average data, which reflects infection rates one to two weeks ago. 

It comes after a top Italian doctor claimed yesterday he was convinced the coronavirus is ‘changing in severity’ and patients are now surviving infections that would have killed them before. 

Professor Matteo Bassetti has said multiple times in recent months that patients with Covid-19 seem to be faring much better than they were at the start of the epidemic in Italy.

He suggests this could be because of a genetic mutation in the virus making it less lethal, because of improved treatments, or because people are not getting infected with such large doses because of social distancing. 

But other scientists have hit back at the claims in the past and said there is no scientific evidence that the virus has changed at all.

Viruses are known to change over time because they are subject to random genetic mutations in the same way that all living things are.

These mutations can have various effects and many will only happen briefly and not become a permanent change as newer generations of viruses replace the mutated ones.

However, some of the mutations might turn out to be advantageous to the virus, and get carried forward into future generations.

SOUTH KOREA CONFIRMS SECOND WAVE OF COVID-19

South Korea has confirmed a second wave of coronavirus as the health minister warned of a ‘grave situation’ in the country.

The Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo said a total of 90 imported cases were identified over the past week, showing a sharp rise from the previous week’s 48. 

‘The government faces a grave situation as health officials need not only to contain locally transmitted infections, but also manage imported cases,’ Park said in a government meeting on COVID-19 responses.  

In a separate briefing, Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledged that the country was now going through a second wave of the virus, following a surge in late February and March centered around the southeastern city of Daegu.

For example, if a virus becomes less dangerous to its host – that is, it causes fewer symptoms or less death – it may find that it is able to live longer and reproduce more.

As a result, more of these less dangerous viruses are produced and they may go on to spread more effectively than the more dangerous versions, which could be stamped out by medication because more people realise they are ill, for example.

The mutation may then be taken forward in the stronger generations and become the dominant version of the virus.

In an explanation of an scientific study about HIV, the NHS said in 2014: ‘The optimal evolutionary strategy for a virus is to be infectious (so it creates more copies of itself) but non-lethal (so its host population doesn’t die out).

‘The “poster boy” for successful long-living viruses is, arguably, the family of viruses that cause the, which has existed for thousands of years.’

South Korea today confirmed a second wave of coronavirus as the health minister warned of a ‘grave situation’ in the country.

The Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo said a total of 90 imported cases were identified over the past week, showing a sharp rise from the previous week’s 48. 

‘The government faces a grave situation as health officials need not only to contain locally transmitted infections, but also manage imported cases,’ Park said in a government meeting on COVID-19 responses.  

In a separate briefing, Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledged that the country was now going through a second wave of the virus, following a surge in late February and March centered around the southeastern city of Daegu.

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