Third wave will continue 'for longer than expected', expert says

Third wave of infections will continue ‘for longer than expected’ because of England’s Euro 2020 run and Indian variant is growing rapidly in Cornwall, Devon and Brighton due to staycation boom, says top expert

  • King’s College London study estimates there were 25,210 new cases a day in the country last week
  • This is up by almost a third from the previous seven-day spell when there were almost 19,122 infections a day
  • Professor Tim Spector said Britain could expect its cases to rise further in the coming weeks  
  • Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here

Britain’s third wave of infections will continue ‘longer than expected’ because of England’s Euro 2020 success and outbreaks of the Indian variant in Cornwall, Devon and Brighton sparked by staycations, a top expert has warned.

King’s College London’s Covid symptom study estimated there were 25,210 new cases every day in the UK last week, up by almost a third (31 per cent) from the previous seven-day spell.

There was a 50 per cent increase in the number of partially or fully vaccinated people suffering symptoms of the virus and getting a positive test — but in most cases these were mild and similar to a bad cold. More than 80 per cent of cases were among the unvaccinated.

Professor Tim Spector, who leads Britain’s biggest Covid surveillance study, warned fans meeting to watch the Euro 2020 football matches would almost certainly be fuelling a surge in infections.

He added that rates were also spiralling in popular holiday hotspots including along the South coast, amid a staycation boom because of mounting restrictions on international travel.

The top epidemiologist called on Britons to remain ‘extra vigilant’ and continue to follow measures to limit the spread of the virus.

‘With the summer holidays approaching, we need to remain extra vigilant and avoid unnecessary risks,’ he said. ‘Euro 2020 has the potential to spread the virus among tens of thousands of fans, so I think because of these factors we’ll continue to see high rates for longer than expected.’

Scottish health officials linked almost 2,000 cases to the football yesterday, two-thirds of which were among fans who travelled to London to watch their team’s crunch tie with England.

The country’s cases are doubling every seven days and yesterday public health chiefs recorded 3,887 positive tests, the highest number north of the border since the pandemic began.

There are now escalating fears that England’s infection numbers will follow suit, particularly after the Three Lions qualified for the final stage of the tournament. But hospitalisations and deaths are still flat with just one in 100 NHS beds in England occupied by virus patients compared to one in six at the start of the second wave in December. 

The ZOE Covid symptom study uses daily reports from more than a million Britons on whether they feel unwell and have tested positive for Covid to estimate the spread of the virus across the country.

But it relies on participants suffering warning signs of the virus meaning the study misses asymptomatic cases — which trigger no symptoms — thought to make up about a third of all infections.

Those reporting symptoms are also asked to report whether they have been vaccinated, allowing scientists behind the study to monitor infections among those who are jabbed and whether they spark different symptoms.

Scientists behind the app found infections among Britons who had received either one or both doses rose by 49 per cent in the week to June 26, from 4,023 to 5,982 new daily cases.

Among the un-vaccinated they increased by 27 per cent, from 15,099 to 19,228 new daily cases. The total number of infections was more than four times higher than among those getting vaccines.

More than 44.7million Britons — or 84.9 per cent of adults — have received their first dose, and a further 32.8million  — or 62.4 per cent — have got both doses.

Professor Tim Spector said they were finding those who caught Covid after being vaccinated suffered a milder form of the disease similar to a cold, with sneezing emerging as a new symptom.

‘While rates of Covid infection are high, it’s reassuring to see vaccinations protecting the vulnerable and deaths remain very low,’ he said.

‘ZOE Covid study data shows symptoms are more mild and are similar to those of a bad cold, with a runny nose, headache and a sore throat among the top symptoms for all groups. Sneezing has also emerged as a symptom among partially and fully vaccinated people.’

The top epidemiologist today called for the NHS symptoms list to be expanded — which only includes a temperature, new cough and loss of taste and smell — saying it was leading to many infections not being missed.

‘Cases are being missed and increasing the spread because people are unaware (they have symptoms of the virus),’ he said.

‘So it’s crucial that we all recognise cold-like symptoms as possible Covid and get tested. While Covid doesn’t kill in the numbers it once did, it is still a dangerous and unpredictable disease that can leave people with long lasting symptoms.’

Professor Spector has repeatedly called for the symptoms list to be expanded. SAGE scientist Professor Calum Semple has also urged ministers to expand the list, saying the UK’s narrow definition leads to delays in identifying people suffering from the disease and may miss them altogether, hampering efforts to control its spread.

ZOE study data predicted Covid outbreaks are surging fastest in the West Midlands (80 per cent rise in a week), the South East (52 per cent) and Yorkshire and the Humber (37 per cent), the app predicted. They added the North West has the most daily Covid cases in the country at 4,732 new infections a day, up 18 per cent in a week. 

But separate data shows hospitalisations due to the virus remain in very low numbers, suggesting the NHS is unlikely to be overwhelmed by Covid any time soon.

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