Coronavirus infections drop for first time in six weeks despite increased testing

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CORONAVIRUS figures in England fell for the first time in six weeks, with the number of people testing positive dropping by almost 10 percent.

Promising new figures from the NHS have shown that the total number of people testing positive for the virus fell week-over-week for the first time since July.

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Government data for the NHS test and trace system during the week ending August 19 showed 6,115 people tested positive for the coronavirus in England.

It was an eight percent drop week-over-week and it was the first time positive test results have declined since the week ending July 15.

The drop in numbers also came as the number of tests actually increased from the previous week, to 442,392 – a jump of 7,333.

Coronavirus numbers have been increasing by the metric every week since July – possibly linked to an increase in testing during the same period.

The positive number of cases had declined since the end of May, but began to climb again in the second week of last month.

Numbers for the week ending Aug. 12 had peaked at 6,656 before finally falling last week.

NHS Test and Trace was launched at the end of May with the aim of monitoring the spread of the virus as the UK came out of lockdown.

Anyone who tests positive for the virus is contacted by officials who will then find other people with whom the patient may have been in contact.

However, despite the decline in positive cases – NHS Test and Trace fell short of its goal of tracking 80% of close patient contacts for the ninth week in a row.

Some 75.5% of close contacts in England were achieved in the week ending August 19, slightly below the target of 4.5%.

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NHS worker issues instructions to Covid-19 testing station Crédits: Getty Images – Getty
A postman delivers mail during the local lockdown in Oldham3
A postman delivers mail during the local lockdown in OldhamCredit: PA: Press Association

The figure is up from 71.6% the week before, however, as the service tries to meet the target set by the government advisory group Sage.

It is hoped that NHS Test and Trace will soon be able to reach the key 80% of coronavirus case contacts within 48 to 72 hours.

The tests are divided into the categories pillar 1, tests in hospitals and epidemic settings, and pillar 2, swab tests nationwide.

Ahead of the release of this week’s figures, Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted the system was “not quite there.”

He told LBC radio on Thursday: ‘One of the challenges is that we want to get NHS Test and Trace up to over 80% of contacts, prompting them to self-isolate – we’re a little over by 75%, so we’re almost there but not quite there. ”

Since the launch of Test and Trace, 246,262 close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 have been contacted through the system and have requested to self-isolate.

An electronic notice board promoting NHS Test and Trace3
An electronic notice board promoting NHS Test and TraceCredit: AFP or licensors

Saffron Cordery, deputy managing director of NHS Providers, who represents hospital bosses, said it was “encouraging to see a significant drop” in positive tests – but added that it was a “mixed picture”.

Ms Cordery said: “It is worrying that too many people are still not reached by the system. ”

“The fact that the overall deadlines for community-collected samples take longer is also a real problem.

“This is a key part of an effective test and traceability system that we will need for the months to come. Obviously, we are not there yet. ”

Baroness Dido Harding, acting head of the new National Institute for Health Protection, said: “This country now has the capacity to test for the coronavirus and trace contacts on an unprecedented scale to stop the spread of the virus.

“We will continue to develop the service to reach more and more people and increase our testing capacity by expanding our network of testing sites and investing in new technologies.

It happened as 12 more people died today from the coronavirus in the UK, with the daily figures remaining above the crucial 1,000 per day mark.

However, the last time the death toll hit 20 was July 29 – with 34 – when the coronavirus death toll appears to have leveled off in the UK.

The number of daily cases climbed in August from a low of 353 in July, but the daily death figures remain relatively stable.

Experts said the increase in cases, but not deaths, is likely due to an increase in testing across the UK.

Some areas have reported an increase in cases, such as Oxford and Redditch.

Meanwhile, previous hotspots mostly in the north – including Leicester and Oldham – have seen infections plummet.

Cases are also on the decline in Manchester, where it is believed that tough new local lockdown laws could be relaxed.

Residents were told not to enter their homes for a month after cases escalated.

Ministers have made it clear that the government will step in to try to control any outbreaks to prevent Britain from reverting to months of lockdown – by establishing a watch list of risky locations.

Strict new rules continue to be put in place – such as fines of £ 10,000 for people throwing illegal parties – and powers have been granted to introduce local lockdowns.

However, Professor John Clancy of Birmingham City University warned this week that current fears that UK cities will return to lockdown are based on “questionable data”.

He argued that the figures show that around 91% of districts in England have not recorded any cases of coronavirus in a month.

Elsewhere, Matt Hancock today unveiled a division in Cabinet after saying he was happy his officials continued to work from home.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly urged Britons to return to their offices – and he specifically told Whitehall officials to return to their office in order to lead by example.

But many large UK companies say they have no plans to fire all workers to their offices anytime soon.

Fifty companies – from banks to retailers – were asked in an anonymous survey and 24 said they did not have a plan in place for employee return.

However, schools are preparing to reopen to all students next week as the government has assured it will be safe for children.

The prime minister said yesterday the biggest threat to students is a missed education – not coronavirus – as the government announced a turnaround on masks for high school children.

Fears have surfaced of a second nationwide coronavirus lockdown as officials warn the end of the year will be ‘bumpy’ for Britain.

Contingency plans have been drawn up to protect the UK from the perfect storm of a second winter wave of Covid-19 coinciding with a No Deal Brexit.

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