Daily Covid cases across the UK have fallen for the third day in a row and hospital admissions have plateaued, official data shows.
The Department of Health reported that there were 40,954 new cases of infection in the last 24 hours. This is a 6 percent decrease from the number recorded on Tuesday.
Today’s tally contains three days worth of data from Wales because of a technical glitch. This means the true week on week drop is likely to even be greater.
Since Sunday, infections have declined after an 18-day surge. Experts believe this is due in part to children’s natural immunity and booster vaccines.
The latest UK hospital data shows that 916 people were admitted to hospital for the virus on October 22, a decrease of less then 1% from the previous week.
The only metric on the rise today was daily deaths, with the 263 registered up almost 18 per cent in a week — the highest figure since March. Public Health Wales has also contributed to the increase in fatalities.
The positive numbers of infections are in line with some more optimistic projections by the No10 Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
Not all scientists who advise the government agree with this view. Many SAGE members lobby for masks, working from home, and vaccine passports in order to prevent rising cases of winter-related illnesses.
Downing St was forced to defend its decision not to revert to Plan B today after leaked Government documents showed the contingency plans could cost the economy £18billion this winter.
A separate paper by the Culture Department raised concerns about vaccine passports being ‘counter-productive’ and driving people to poorly ventilated bars.
Modeling by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (SAGE) saw cases drop from next month to as low at 5,000 per day during winter.
Scientists suggested that a combination booster vaccines, natural immunity growing in children, and a decrease in classroom mixing during half-term break in October would bring down cases.
SAGE has been previously criticised for exaggerating the scale of the country’s outbreak. But Dr Simon Clarke from the University of Reading said that it looked like they ‘had high chances of being right’ this time.
MailOnline was informed by a microbiologist that despite criticizing the shortcomings of pessimistic models, they must apply the same scepticism for optimistic ones. The LSHTM team is very good at what it does.
Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist from the University of East Anglia, stated that he ‘trusted the’ LSHTM model and added: ‘Over a few weeks, we should begin to see a substantial drop in cases followed by hospitalisations.
No10 has been able to ignore growing calls to it to revert back to Plan B. This would see mandatory masks and WFH guidance returns, as well as the introduction vaccine passports.
It comes as leaked documents suggested imposing the measures could cost the economy up to £18billion.
The Treasury and the Cabinet Office’s coronavirus taskforce drafted papers outlining the potential cost of mandatory vaccination passports and mask wearing, as well as the return of work from at-home guidance.
Obtained by the Politico news website, the internal Treasury impact assessment suggests the measures lasting throughout winter until the end of March would cost the economy between £11billion and £18billion.
However, the Government insists that there is no planned five-month timeline. This is because it disputes the assumptions in the document.
Scientists believe that working at home will have the greatest impact on transmission. However, leaked documents suggest that mandatory vaccine certification at large venues would have an’moderate’ effect.
According to the assessment, venues like nightclubs or music venues could reduce transmission of large events by between 40-45 percent and in the wider community by 1 and 5%.
A Government spokesperson stated that the presumptions raised here were false and did not reflect Government policy. The data does not currently show that Plan B is necessary – and there is no planned five-month timeline.’
Officially, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson stated that Plan B would only be purchased when ‘pressure on NHS is unsustainable’. He also defended the measures by saying that they allowed’venues of remaining open and continuing trading’.
He said, “We are confident that the Plan B measures taken together as a package will curb Covid cases while still striking that important balance of allowing some parts of the economy remain open that would otherwise face severe restrictions or even closing,” he added.
A separate impact assessment also raised concerns about possible knock-on effects from mandatory vaccine passports.
The Telegraph reported that the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), in a document, warned that the move could encourage people not to go to well ventilated pubs and thus be ‘counter-intuitive and potentially counterproductive’.
It also suggested that the turnover of venues hit by the move could drop between £345million and £2billion.
A DCMS spokesperson stated that there is strong evidence to suggest that certification would have a positive impact on infection rates, and it would also prevent the need for capacity caps/closures.
“There is no evidence that lower attendance at certification events has had an impact on businesses, as many venues use this entry-level feature throughout the year. There is no evidence of any such effect.”
Greg Parmley however, chief executive officer of Live music industry body said that the leak shows that mandatory use of passports is ‘a mistake’.
He stated that these passports would have a devastating effect on the live music industry. However, certain aspects of the rollout would prove impractical and potentially hazardous.
LONDON SCHOOL of HYGIENE and TROPICAL MEDICINE: These charts compare the effects of returning to a normal level of social interaction in three months (bottom), and remaining cautious for a full year (right). They also show the impact on infections (left), admissions and deaths (middle), respectively. The models show cases falling in November due to natural immunity and rising in spring (bottom), as vaccine protection is expected decrease.
Top experts question the need to increase restrictions now that the epidemic is flatlining. MailOnline’s Professor Hunter stated that he anticipates a’substantial, rapid fall’ in the epidemic within the next weeks, which would defeat the purpose of Plan A.
He stated that booster vaccines will boost immunity by half the population, and added: “The boosters are working better than we thought they would.”
Dr Raghib Ali, a Cambridge University epidemiologist, says that children who were responsible for the recent surge in cases will have received significant natural and jab-induced protection.
The half-term school holiday — which for many schools started today — will act as a mini firebreaker and bring down cases further, experts believe.
Dr Ali and Professor Hunter do not believe that cases will drop to 5,000 per hour, due to the emergence a new transmissible strain of Delta.
Yet other scientists have warned it is impossible to accurately predict how the outbreak will unfold and that Plan B measures — such as WFH guidance and face masks — should be brought back now to control rising infections just in case.
Professor Martin McKee, a public-health expert based at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said he would be cautious about making Christmas arrangements due to the ‘high’ number of patients and the emergence of the AY.4.2 variant, which appears’more transmissible that Delta’.
And Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the independent Scientific Pandemic Insights group SPI-B which feeds into SAGE, questioned the accuracy of his colleagues’ modelling.
MailOnline was informed by him that making predictions on infection levels is a “notoriously inaccurate pastime”. He suggested that instead of focusing on how to bring down cases, efforts should be focused on what is possible.
Professor Reicher said the key ways of reducing infections are behavioural — increasing vaccine uptake, limiting contacts, including by working from home, increasing ventilation and ensuring infected people self-isolate.
He said that this is possible by using ‘clear, consistent messaging about the need for infection reduction and how to do it’.
‘Now the messaging is all over the place, often inaccurate, and even suggesting that infections don’t matter… at which point why do anything,’ he said.