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The Telegraph

Daily infections not rising as fast as Vallance’s ‘nightmare projection’

Newly reported Covid-19 cases are not rising as fast as projections presented by the government’s chief scientists, Telegraph analysis can reveal. On Monday, the chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance presented a scenario in which the number of new confirmed cases could reach close to 50,000 a day by October 13 if it began doubling every seven days. Sir Patrick made clear the scenario was “not a prediction” but an example of how the virus can spread when left unchecked. It was based on the situation as of September 15, when 3,105 new cases were reported across the UK. Since the dire warning the UK has seen the highest daily rise in detected infections since the start of the pandemic for two days running, with 6,634 new cases reported on September 24th and 6,874 on September 25th. Had the number of new cases been doubling every seven days, the UK would have been reporting closer to 8,000 cases a day by this time. Analysis by the Telegraph shows – at the current rate – the virus is doubling between every nine and 14 days. In a worst case scenario this would lead to more than 32,000 new cases by October 13. At the lower end of the margin of error, if the virus doubles every 14 days 18,300 new cases a day would be being reported by the same date – less than half of the government scientists’ projections. The analysis comes as infectious disease modelling expert Professor Graham Medley warned there would be 100 coronavirus deaths a day in a few weeks’ time. “The treatments have improved, the way the virus is transmitting is going to be different, but nonetheless it is a dangerous virus and inevitably it will lead to some deaths,” Prof Medley, who attends meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told the BBC. “At a level of 10,000 (cases) we are seeing now, means that in three or four weeks we are going to see 100 deaths a day. “In order to stop that process increasing again, then we need to make sure that that transmission comes down now because that doubling time will carry on. The things that we do now will not stop 100 people dying a day but they will stop that progressing much higher.” He also said he had “never heard” the 10pm curfew for hospitality discussed during Sage meetings. The number of newly reported daily cases remained relatively stable for a period of around a week in mid-September, hovering between 3,000 and 4,000, but has since begun to increase more rapidly. It is being driven by rises across the north, with the rate of new cases soaring in Newcastle upon Tyne, South Tyneside and Burnley. They have seen the most significant seven day rises in infection rates according to the latest data up to September 21st, by more than 92 cases per 100,000 people. Confirmed case rates have risen by more than 10 per 100,000 in 98 of 316 local authorities in England (31 per cent). When Sir Patrick and chief medical officer Chris Whitty made their warnings on Monday, they presented local authority data up to September 9th, at which point 131 local authorities had seen rises of more than 10 cases per 100,000. While new confirmed cases paint a more accurate picture than at the start of the pandemic, with testing capacity greatly increased, it remains an underestimate. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics Infection Survey cements the fact cases are now rising dramatically, with estimated new daily infections rising from an average of 3,200 in the week to September 5th to 6,000 the following week and 9,600 in the week to September 19th. “In recent weeks there has been clear evidence of an increase in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in all age groups, with the current rates highest in the 17 to 24 age group,” the ONS said. And according to the Covid Symptom Study, developed by health science company ZOE and King’s College London, the predicted number of people who have the virus on September 24th was 161,301 – a 56 per cent rise from a week earlier. The study has estimated there were 17,444 new daily infections on September 25th. The team behind the study has warned cases are doubling weekly in pockets of the country, particularly some of the urban centres which have had local Covid restrictions put in place. Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London who leads the research, said: “The number of cases in the UK continues to rise at an alarming rate as we are seeing figures doubling weekly across the country, in particular we are worried about places like London and other major cities like Manchester, Belfast and Glasgow where cases are surging and the R value is around 1.4.”

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