HHigh levels of coronavirus infection and rising case rates have led to a warning that the UK is ‘heating up’ when it comes to managing the spread of the disease.
With the prevalence of the infection in England around 25 times higher than at the same time last year, an expert said the current situation is “a first idea of what life is like with Covid-19” .
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor of cell microbiology at the University of Reading, said that while vaccines reduce the number of hospital admissions and deaths, a high number of cases “still places an unnecessary burden on the patient. NHS ”.
The rate of new cases of the virus is currently increasing in all four countries, suggesting that the sharp drop in Covid-19 cases that had been underway since mid-July is now over.
Separately, the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Infection Survey show that levels of coronavirus infection remain high across much of the UK.
The prevalence is highest in Northern Ireland, where around one in 55 people reportedly had Covid-19 last week – unchanged from the previous week and the highest level since the end of January.
Next come England, where the number is around one in 75, also unchanged from the previous week.
The ONS said that while the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus in England “continues to be high”, estimates suggest “an overall downward trend over the past two weeks”.
In Wales, where around one in 220 people are estimated to have had the virus last week, the trend is described by the ONS as ‘uncertain’. It is broadly unchanged at one in 230 the previous week.
Scotland was the only region to experience a drop, with ONS estimates suggesting that around one in 190 people had Covid-19 in the week to August 7, compared to one in 120 the week before.
According to the latest government data, England recorded 301.6 new cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to August 8, up from 282.3 week-to-week.
In Wales, the rate is rising week after week from 141.6 to 155.7, while the rate in Scotland has fallen from 143.7 to 156.1.
In Northern Ireland, the rate fell from 440.8 to 475.5, the highest of the four countries.
The coronavirus reproduction number, or R-value, in England is between 0.8 and 1, according to the latest government figures.
Last week, the number – which represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person infects – was between 0.8 and 1.1.
Dr Clarke said: ‘We have an early idea of what life is like with Covid-19.
“As restrictions are lifted and the economy rebounds, we are ‘hot’ when it comes to managing the spread of Covid.
“Wider vaccine rollout may reduce infections, but the high number of cases still places an unnecessary burden on the NHS. “
Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said he expects to see a fourth wave following the easing of restrictions and the return of schools and people moving indoors after the summer.
He said: “I would expect to see an increase in cases, a ‘fourth’ wave.
“I don’t know the magnitude of a further increase and I don’t trust those who claim with certainty ‘to know’. “
But Professor Naismith added: ‘I know any significant increase in cases will lead to a longer Covid-19 and increase the pressure on the NHS. “
He called for a “more effective (vaccine) campaign to encourage adoption among the hesitant,” saying jabs are safe and effective and have already saved tens of thousands of lives.
Professor Naismith added: “The more people vaccinated, the smaller the fourth wave. “
A new study has suggested that people double-injected with the Moderna vaccine still had antibodies to the coronavirus, including the Delta variant, six months after their second dose.
The company behind the vaccine said it was happy with the results, which came from a small group of volunteers, and expects the new data to inform approaches to possible recall campaigns.
The research, published in the journal Science, examined a random sample of eight volunteers in each of the three age groups to monitor antibody levels and concluded that the antibodies against the variants were still present six months after the second jab. , with “high levels” maintained against the Delta variant.
Moderna Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel said: “We are pleased with this new data showing that people vaccinated with two doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine have retained antibodies for six months, including against worrying variants such as the Delta variant. “
He added, “We expect this data and the growing body of real-world evidence to help inform approaches by health regulators on how and when to give additional booster doses. “
Another 100 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, and there were another 32,700 laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus in the UK.
Government data up to Thursday shows that 47,215,352 first doses of a Covid vaccine have now been administered, while 40,206,029 second doses have been administered.