The numbers of people being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 have levelled off in huge areas of England as data suggests the country is being dragged into panic by an out-of-control outbreak in the north.
In London, the South East and the South West – home to around half of the country’s population of 55million – daily admissions appear to be plateauing after rising in line with cases during September from a low point over the summer.
However, admissions are still accelerating in the North West, North East and Yorkshire, where new local lockdowns are springing up every week and positive tests are spiralling to record numbers. But as talk grows of a second national lockdown when winter hits, figures suggests the south faces being lumped under rules it doesn’t need.
The picture is more complex in the Midlands and the East of England – in the Midlands hospitalisations rose dramatically during September but there are signs they have peaked now, while admissions appear to still be rising slowly in the East, although at significantly lower levels than in the northern regions.
Numbers of people in hospital in the worst affected areas have hit almost a third of what they were during the peak of the crisis in April, while in the south of the country they are still much lower at around six per cent.
In the North West there are now an average of 107 people admitted to hospital with coronavirus every day, along with 94 per day in the North East. Both figures are the highest seen since May and do not show signs of slowing. For comparison, the rates at their peak for each region were around 2,900 and 2,600 per day, respectively.
On the other hand in London, where officials are reportedly discussing tougher measures, there are just 34 admissions per day – down from an average 39 on September 25 and just 4.5 per cent of the level seen at the peak of the crisis in April. And in the South West, which has been least badly hit throughout the pandemic, just eight people are sent into hospital each day – six per cent of the peak number.
The same picture is true of the numbers of people dying of Covid-19. 171 of the 219 deaths recorded in the third week of September (78 per cent) all came from the three worst-hit regions – the North East, North West and the Midlands.
Statistics have shown that coronavirus cases appear to rise in most areas that get put under local lockdown measures, raising questions about how well they work at containing smaller outbreaks.
But Professor Neil Ferguson, whose work influenced the Government to start the first UK-wide lockdown in March, said today that the situation in Britain would ‘probably be worse’ if officials were not taking the whack-a-mole approach. He said there is still a risk that the NHS could become overwhelmed if cases aren’t stopped – even if infections have started to come under control it can still take weeks for people to get sick enough to need hospital treatment.
The Department of Health yesterday announced a huge 12,594 new cases of Covid-19 after a weekend that saw Public Health England admit it had messed up a spreadsheet that meant 16,000 positive tests weren’t counted last week.
Government data shows that the North West and North East and Yorkshire are the only regions to have seen a sustained and sharp increase in people being admitted to hospital (line graphs show daily hospital admissions between April and October). All regions saw a rise in cases, hospitalisations and deaths in September as people returned to offices and schools after the summer, but across most of the country these have since come under control. Hospital patients in the two northern regions and the Midlands make up more than three quarters of the entire number for England (76.8 per cent), while patient numbers in the southern half of the country remain at just a fraction of where they were in April
Officials have warned the public that coronavirus is now spreading faster than it was in summer in every region of England, estimating that around one in 400 people have the disease, falling to one in 200 in hard-hit areas.
But Public Health England data shows the rate of cases in the North West and North East are around eight times higher than they are in the South West, South East and East of England.
The region with the highest rate is the North West, where there are 136.1 cases for every 100,000 people, compared to the lowest rate in the South East where there are just 16.1 cases per 100,000.
Professor Neil Ferguson, an Imperial College London expert, said on BBC Radio 4 this morning: ‘We think that infections are probably increasing, doubling every two weeks or so – in some areas faster than that, maybe every seven days – and in other areas slower.’
Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said the situation in the UK would ‘probably be worse’ if local lockdowns weren’t in place
He said scientists ‘always expected’ cases to rise once lockdown was lifted and that now was a time for trial and error of local lockdown rules to see how well the virus can be controlled while schools and work return to normal.
‘We’re about 10 times lower in infection levels than we were just before the original lockdown,’ he said, but he stressed keeping new infections under wraps is crucial.
‘The death rate probably has gone down [since spring], we know how to treat cases better, hospitals are less stressed, we have new drugs,’ Professor Ferguson said.
‘But admissions to hospitals, hospital beds occupied with Covid patients, and deaths, are all tracking cases. They’re at a lower level but they’re basically doubling every two weeks and we just cannot have that continue indefinitely.
‘The NHS will be overwhelmed again and you can see what’s happening in Paris and what’s happening in Madrid and measures there. It’s being driven by hospitals gradually becoming overwhelmed. Over half of ICU beds [there] are now Covid patients and their death numbers are again creeping up inexorably.’
Department of Health data shows that three quarters of all hospital patients who have Covid-19 (76.8 per cent) are in the North West, North East and Midlands regions. A third are in the North West alone.
WHAT IS THE HOSPITAL SITUATION RIGHT NOW?
As per to Department of Health data up to October 5:
In hospital now / average daily admissions:
Of England total in hospital now:
NE & Yorks
111 / 15
312 / 34
449 / 57
656 / 94
889 / 107
115 / 15
61 / 8
7% / 7%
6% / 5%
14% / 10%
25% / 23%
32% / 26%
6% / 5%
7% / 6%
Meanwhile, in the East, South East, South West and London – home to at least 30million people – there were just 318 patients with coronavirus yesterday, October 3.
While the rates of people being admitted to hospital are clearing soaring in the northern regions, they appear flat or even declining in other ares.
Every region experienced a surge in the numbers of people getting sent to hospital in September as cases rose in line with loosened lockdown rules, cooler weather and the return of schools and offices after summer holidays.
But in four out of the six regions of the country this increase started to slow down and tail off towards the end of the month while it continued rising in the north.
In the week leading up to October 3, the most recent data, the average daily admissions in the Midlands rose only from 52 to 57 after spiking into the 50s from below 10 a day at the end of August. In the same week, however, admissions in the North West continued surging and went from 79 to 107.
In London and the South East admissions fell from 37 to 34, based on a seven-day average, while they stayed flat in the South West, increasing from seven to eight. They kept spiralling in the North East and Yorkshire from 70 to 94, while also rising in the East of England from 10 to 15, suggesting the situation may be worsening in the East, too.
Comparing the numbers to peak levels from the spring outbreak shows that most of the country is nowhere near those levels.
Closest is the North West, where the number of people in hospital right now is about a third as high as it was on April 13 – 889 compared to 2,890. In the North East the number of patients is at 656 compared to 2,567 on April 9 – 25.5 per cent as high.
In other regions that are nowhere near as badly affected, however, hospital patients are hitting only six per cent of the levels they did at the height of the outbreak.
In London there are just 312 compared to 4,813 on April 8 – six per cent as many – and in the South East just 115 compared to 2,073 on April 7.
Deaths, which are also significantly lower than they were at the peak but are the last figure to rise in an outbreak, also vary dramatically across the country and are only rising in some regions.
Coronavirus fatalities surged in September, rising from 41 in the week ending September 3 to 219 in the week ending September 28.
The latter is the most recent week that NHS data is reliable because it can take weeks for death reports to be filed, meaning the number of victims placed on each day continues to rise for days and weeks after the date passes.
Most of the rise came from hospitals in the North East, North West and the Midlands, the Health Service Journal reported, with all but 48 of the 219 happening in those regions.
NHS trusts in Greater Manchester, Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire and Merseyside accounted for half of all the deaths in that last week of September, according to the specialist news website.
But other regions have not seen a rise in deaths following the warnings of a national resurgence of Covid-19. Just one person died in the South West during that entire week and fatalities remain flat and low in London, the South East, South West and the East.
In a speech in the House of Commons yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged that the northern regions, Scotland and Wales were driving Britain’s second wave.
He told MPs: ‘Here in the UK the number of hospital admissions is now at the highest it has been since mid-June.
‘Last week the ONS [Office for National Statistics] said that while the rate of increase may be falling, the number of cases is still rising. Yesterday [Sunday] there were 12,594 new positive cases.
‘The rise is more localised than the first time round, with cases rising particularly sharply in the North East and North West of England, and parts of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
‘Now, more than ever – with winter ahead – we must all remain vigilant and get this virus under control.’
Data for Scotland and Wales show they are proportionately worse affected than much of England, with the number of patients in hospital in Wales at 24 per cent of the levels seen in the peak in April.
Numbers are much smaller in Scotland and Wales, however, and combined they only have 393 patients in hospital – fewer than the Midlands, North East or North West of England. Scotland’s hospital admissions are at approximately 12 per cent of peak levels.
Yesterday’s official update added another 12,594 coronavirus cases to the rolling total, which was one of the highest one day rises on record
A further 33 deaths were announced on Monday. The average number confirmed each day has risen to 53 from just seven per day a month ago
Covid-19 deaths in England and Wales spike by 55% with 215 victims last week – but are still only a fraction of the 8,800 recorded during April’s peak
The number of coronavirus deaths in England and Wales has spiked for the third week in a row, official figures show.
Covid-19 was mentioned on 215 death certificate sin the week that ended September 25, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This marked a 55 per cent rise in the 139 deaths recorded the previous week and more than double the 99 posted a fortnight ago.
Just two of the 215 victims were under the age of 50, once again highlighting how the virus disproportionately preys on older people.
Registered deaths involving Covid-19 increased in every region of England, except the East Midlands, where the weekly total fell from 14 to 11. Deaths were highest in the North West (60).
Despite fatalities rising across the board, weekly deaths are still a fraction of what they were during the darkest days of the crisis, when there were 8,800 victims a week. And flu and pneumonia are still killing more than five times the amount of people as Covid-19, with 1,172 people passing from the respiratory illnesses in the last seven days.
Meanwhile, there are still 750 more people dying in their houses than medics would expect at this time of year, highlighting the negative knock-on effect the pandemic is having on the nation’s health.
Experts say many people are still too scared to use the NHS for fear of catching Covid-19, while others don’t want to be a burden on the health service. Hospitals are still scrambling to get services back up and running and cut down record waiting lists after months of operating at a fraction of their capacity.
The number of coronavirus deaths in England and Wales has spiked for the third week in a row, official figures show
Despite fatalities rising across the board, weekly deaths are still a fraction of what they was during the darkest days of the crisis, when there were 8,800 victims a week
Registered deaths involving Covid-19 increased in every region of England, except the East Midlands, where the weekly total fell from 14 to 11
More than 58,000 virus-related deaths have now been registered in the UK, according to data from the statistics agencies in each of the home nations.
Up until September 25, 52,943 people had died with Covid-19 in England and Wales, the ONS said.
Data published last week by the National Records for Scotland showed that 4,257 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in the country up to September 27.
And 901 deaths occurred in Northern Ireland before September 25, according to the province’s Statistics and Research Agency.
Number of severely ill Covid-19 patients being placed on ventilators has more than HALVED since the spring
The number of severely ill Covid-19 patients needing to be hooked up to ventilators has more than halved since the peak of the pandemic in the spring, figures reveal.
Twenty-six per cent of intensive care patients received invasive ventilation up to 24 hours after being admitted to hospital last month.
But this figure was as high as 76 per cent when the pandemic first struck, according to data collated by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre.
The data bolsters suggestions that doctors are getting better at treating the disease, with scientific breakthroughs boosting the survival odds of patients.
Medics can now use drugs such as dexamethasone — a steroid that cuts the risk of death in the most critically-ill by up to a third, and remdesivir — which can speed up recovery.
It means they are no longer having to rely on ventilators to treat every severely-ill patient, experts say.
Survival rates after entering critical care also appear to be improving, official data shows, although the final outcome for many patients is yet to be revealed.
The rate has risen from 61 per cent of those in critical care up to August 31, to 88 per cent of those admitted from September 1, figures show.
But 66 per cent of the 211 patients admitted to hospital last month for whom data was provided remained in intensive care or in hospital when the data was gathered for the report.
This estimate is higher than the Department of Health’s official tally, which has recorded little over 43,000 deaths, because the ONS includes people who were suspected of having the virus but were never diagnosed.
The 215 Covid-19 deaths this week accounted for 2.2 per cent of all 9,634 deaths registered in the week ending September 25 in England and Wales, the ONS said.
Deaths from all causes are 2.7 per cent above the five-year average, which experts say is caused by the knock-on effect of the pandemic on healthcare.
Hospitals are struggling to get through the slog of patients waiting for ops because they shut down all non-emergency treatment for months during the crisis.
They are still only running at a fraction of their usual capacity and are being hindered by new social distancing measures.
There are currently four million people on waiting lists for elective surgery but NHS bosses expect that number to grow to a record 10million by the end of the year.
Just two areas – London and the East – had lower overall deaths than the average over five years for this time of year.
This statistic is being driven up largely by a huge increase in people dying at home, with 749 more fatalities in private houses than would typically be expected.
The number of excess deaths at home, which were not linked to Covid-19, since the start of the pandemic has passed 25,000.
There were 25,183 non-Covid excess deaths in homes in England and Wales registered between March 7 and September 25, the ONS said.
Excess deaths are the number of deaths that are above the average for the corresponding period in the previous five years.
But care homes and hospitals are still recording fewer deaths than they normally would at this time of year.
ONS experts explained that Covid-19 likely sped up the deaths of people who would have died of other causes, meaning the year’s fatalities have been front-loaded.
Eminent statistician Sir David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, said: ‘The latest data confirms that Covid deaths in the UK were doubling around every two weeks in September, although still only comprised 2 per cent of deaths in the country.
‘Crucially, there is still absolutely no sign of any reduction in the 30 per cent increase in deaths occurring at home – if this is to be a long-term feature of deaths in this country, we need to be confident that appropriate end-of-life care is being made available.’