As the daily tally of positive coronavirus tests within the UK reached the very best level on Sunday since 4 June, at 1,715 new cases, we take a glance at whether this is often a real rise in infections, and what it means.
Are cases really rising?
A quick glance at UK figures for positive coronavirus tests shows a transparent upward trend since early July. On 5 July 516 new cases were reported, with a rolling seven-day average of just over 546 per day, while on 26 Lammas ,048 cases were reported, with a rolling seven-day average of just over 1,164 per day.
Some have suggested this rise is essentially right down to a rise within the number of individuals being tested. Indeed, 126,100 tests were processed on 5 July, compared with 186,500 on 26 August. But an analysis of the figures shows this only partly explains the increase .
As Prof Paul Hunter of the University of East Anglia points out, the proportion of tests returning positive – the positivity rate – appears to be rising. Over the primary seven days in July, 232 tests were finished every positive case reported and in mid August only about 164 tests were finished every positive case – although in recent weeks this appears to possess stabilised.
That, experts have said, suggests infections have truly been rising. The conclusion chimes with work from the Office for National Statistics that suggested an increase within the share of people testing positive in July – although again it seems this rise may have levelled off.
However, experts say the figures from Sunday should be viewed with caution. While on Monday 1,406 new cases were reported they assert data for subsequent few days are going to be needed to place the amount of latest infections in context.
What about deaths?
While infections may have risen, the amount of deaths from coronavirus remain low: the daily figure for UK deaths within 28 days of a positive test has not hit 20 or higher since 21 July.
Experts say there are sort of possible explanations for this, including an increase within the utilization of the life-saving drug dexamethasone, which infections now seem to be more common among children – older age may be a risk factor for more severe Covid-19.
It is not yet clear if other factors, for instance the virus becoming less deadly, could even be at play.
Why are infections rising?
Experts say as lockdown restrictions are eased, an increase in cases is predicted . In the UK, restrictions have gradually been eased since mid-May, with social “bubbles” allowed from mid-June and pubs and restaurants allowed to reopen from early July.
“The key thing we’ve to try to to is get to balance, letting people revisit to normal [while] keeping control of transmission,” said Prof Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London.
That, he added, meant local restrictions – as already seen in Leicester and Oldham – were likely to be a feature in additional areas as outbreaks occurred.
How concerned should we be?
The increase within the positivity rate since July has led to concerns about further easing of lockdown – including encouraging employees to return to the workplace.
Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, said among the concerns were that few offices had windows that opened and lots of involved sharing lifts and bathrooms.
Ferguson added that a critical moment would be the opening from schools, which could lead on to a rapid increase in cases of coronavirus.
While Ferguson said he didn’t want to be alarmist, there was no room for complacency. “We do got to confirm that our testing, tracing and response to outbreaks in workplaces and schools or wherever is up to scratch,” he said.
Prof Rowland Kao, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, agreed, noting “sparks” of coronavirus were to be expected. “How you respond is what matters,” he said.