Is THIS the first sign Freedom Day and the reopening of nightclubs has triggered a Covid spike? Infections among older teenagers and 20-24 year olds start to rise for first time in a month
- EXCLUSIVE: Experts said the rise was likely down to nightclubs reopening and lower vaccine uptake
- Others said they suspected the data may have played a role in the dramatic U-turn on vaccinating children
- Separate studies today added to evidence showing the third wave peaked in Britain last week
Covid cases are rising among the oldest teenagers and adults in their early twenties in England for the first time in a month, MailOnline’s analysis of official figures revealed today.
Scientists claimed the worrying trend was likely triggered by ‘Freedom Day’ and the reopening of nightclubs, but also warned lower vaccine uptake and colder weather towards the end of the month may be partly to blame.
Other experts said they suspected the data may have played a role in the dramatic U-turn of vaccinating children, with health chiefs yesterday confirming all 16 and 17-year-olds would be offered jabs within weeks.
Britain’s Covid cases rose week-on-week yesterday for the first time in almost two weeks, sparking warnings that people must keep their guard up and that the worst of the third wave is not definitely over.
Department of Health data suggests the trend in cases — which have been flattening off over the past week — is being driven by an up-tick in cases among 15-19 year olds and 20-24 year olds.
Rates remained static in other age groups and continued to fall among all over-30s.
Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at Reading University, warned there was a risk these infections could yet spill over into older age groups, with previous waves beginning in the young before rapidly picking up the pace among older, more vulnerable people.
He called on the over-50s to make sure they get their booster jabs when they are dished out, to ensure they have the best protection possible.
It comes as separate data today confirmed cases were genuinely declining last week — and that the blip was not down to a lack of testing. But the surveillance studies don’t reflect the current situation because they are lagging measures.
ZOE’s symptom-tracker branded its data — which showed a 22 per cent drop in people falling ill — as being the ‘good news the UK had been waiting for’.
Meanwhile, Public Health England’s weekly report showed rates fell in all but 12 of England’s 149 authorities. And Test and Trace statistics revealed the shrinking outbreak helped to ease some of the ‘pingdemic’ chaos that has disrupted the nation over the past month.
Covid cases are rising among adults in their early twenties and the oldest teenagers in England, and are static among adults in their late twenties. Experts said this could be due to Freedom Day easings and the long daylight hours encouraging more socialising. Younger age groups tend to do more socialising than older age groups
Covid cases are still dropping week-on-week in all age groups, but the rate of decrease has slowed considerably among adults in their early twenties. It could switch to a rise in cases in the coming days
Britain’s Covid cases rose yesterday for the first time in almost two weeks, rising five per cent from seven days ago to 29,312 new infections.
Experts said Freedom Day easings including the reopening of nightclubs could be behind the rise. But they also said the longer daylight hours leading to more mixing were likely playing a part . Pictured are revellers on the dancefloor at Powerhouse nightclub in Newcastle on Freedom Day
The Covid Symptom Study estimated cases fell by almost a quarter last week, after saying they had plateaued. It estimated 46,905 people are now catching Covid every day, down from almost 60,000 previously
Test and Trace data showed Covid cases dropped by almost 40 per cent a week ago, in yet another sign the third wave has peaked. They said 189,232 Britons tested positive for the virus over the seven days to July 28
MailOnline’s analysis of the Government data was based on the date tests were carried out, meaning they also lag behind slightly.
But specimen date figures — as opposed to reported date — offer one of the most accurate ways of tracking the state of the outbreak.
It can take a week between someone getting infected with coronavirus and testing positive because of the time taken for symptoms to develop and swabs to be analysed.
The statistics showed the weekly infection rate — the number of positive tests per 100,000 people — among 20-24 year olds stood at 734 on July 30. This equated to around one in 136 adults in the age group having Covid.
The rate is still lower than it was the week before (783.2), but it has been up on every day since July 26 (633.9).
Among 15 to 19-year-olds, the Covid infection rate has also been trending upwards since July 26 (from 694.2 to 724.6).
A fifth of Covid patients currently in hospital are aged between 18 and 34, the head of the NHS revealed today.
Amanda Pritchard, who took over as chief executive of the health service last week, urged young people to get a vaccine.
In her first major interview since taking the role, she said there is ‘no doubt’ the roll-out is keeping people out of hospital and saving lives.
Some 20 per cent of the 5,000 patients currently in hospital with the virus are young people, according to NHS data. This is up from 5.4 per cent — around one in 20 — at the peak of the second wave in January.
It does not mean the virus now poses a bigger threat to youngsters. Instead, it shows how the current crop of vaccines have prevented tens of thousands of older adults from being hospitalised.
Just 64.1 per cent of 30 to 34-year-olds have had a jab so far, and uptake falls to just 60.8 per cent for people in their mid to late 20s. For comparison, more than 90 per cent of over-60s have been jabbed.
Ministers have already roped in Uber and Deliveroo to offer deals for young people in a bid to encourage them to come forward.
It comes as Government data shows the number of patients being hospitalised with Covid is continuing to fall, in a sign that the worst part of the summer wave may be over.
However, experts are concerned cases may creep up again this week, which could see the NHS come under more pressure towards the end of the month. It can take several weeks for infected patients to become severely ill.
Dr Raghib Ali, an epidemiologist at Cambridge University, told MailOnline it would ‘make sense’ for nightclubs to be behind the rise in younger age groups.
He said: ‘We don’t have direct data, but given that was the only change really after Freedom Day it seems likely.
‘We don’t know the proportion of younger adults that go to nightclubs, but it will be a higher proportion than those in older age groups.’
He also said lower vaccine uptake could be a factor.
Official figures show almost three million people in their twenties are still to get a first dose of the Covid vaccine, despite the drive being open to them since mid-June.
Dr Clarke pointed to a spike in cases after the Government launched its Eat-Out-To-Help-Out scheme last summer to explain the rise in younger age groups, saying: ‘If you wind the clock back 12 months this is what happened then.
‘[The rise] is because they mix more, that they are more likely to be social in the summer months, there are more social opportunities and these are being taken up by young people.’
He added that the weather could be a factor, after colder temperatures at the end of July may have led to more people socialising indoors where the virus finds it easier to spread.
Met Office data shows temperatures dipped after the last weekend in July from highs of 29C (84F) to around 20C (68F).
Asked whether the rise in cases was behind the U-turn on vaccinating children yesterday, he said: ‘I suspect they will have looked at the data and it would be one of the factors that they may consider.
‘But it is difficult to know how much weight they would put on that.’
Health chiefs had access to a plethora of data — most notably evidence on how safe the jabs are — to make the decision.
Dr Clarke added infections could spill over to older age groups in the coming weeks.
He said: ‘We should be concerned about that if people don’t get their boosters because with dealing in the realms of the unknown there is the possibility that immunity would start to wane.’
More than 30million over-50s are set to be offered a third dose of the Covid vaccine from next month amid fears in scientists that protection from jabs could wane over time.
Dr Jonathan Stoye, a virologist at the Francis Crick Institute, said the rise in infections in younger people was likely down to them mixing more and being less likely to still follow face mask and social distancing guidance.
‘It is either because they have more social contact individually than older people or because they have given up some of the restrictions more easily,’ he told MailOnline. ‘They feel less inhibited about wearing face masks and things like that.’
Professor Karl Friston, an Independent SAGE member modelling the spread of Covid in the country, said the ‘selective’ rise in cases in young people was ‘certainly consistent with clubs reopening’.
The neurologist added: ‘This speaks to a key determinant of viral spread; namely, contact rates and personal mitigating behaviours.
‘These factors have a greater effect on transmission the closer we get to a population immunity threshold. This probably explains why the summer wave peaked when it did — because we are still, as a population, behaving in a careful and considerate way, even though many restrictions have been lifted.’
It came as the symptom-study said cases had fallen last week, although infections were still highest among people who had not received the vaccine.
Statistics from health data company ZOE suggested there were 29,620 Covid cases a day among the un-vaccinated.
For those that had a first dose there were predicted to be 6,534 cases a day, and for people that had both doses there were 10,751 cases a day.
This does not mean vaccines do not work. Scientists say the shift was obviously going to happen because so many more people are now double-jabbed.
Lead scientist on the ZOE Covid app and reader at King’s College London Dr Claire Steves said: ‘According to the latest ZOE incidence figures, the number of new daily cases in the UK has finally begun to fall, with a UK R value around 0.9.
‘This is the good news the UK has been waiting for but, we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves, this pandemic definitely isn’t over yet as cases remain very high.’
The app relies on daily reports from more than a million Britons on whether they are feeling unwell, what symptoms they are suffering and if they have tested positive for Covid to estimate the spread of the virus.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia, warned last week data from the app was becoming less reliable because vaccines had turned Covid into a ‘bad cold’, making it harder to pick out from other infections.
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