UK records more than 15,000 new Covid cases

·5-min read
Members of the public queuing to receive a Covid vaccine at the Emirates stadium  (AFP via Getty Images)
Members of the public queuing to receive a Covid vaccine at the Emirates stadium (AFP via Getty Images)

The UK recorded 15,810 new coronavirus cases on Friday and 18 deaths, according to official government figures.

Cases of the Delta variant, first detected in India, have surged this month but deaths have mercifully stayed relatively low thanks to high vaccination rates.

Public Health England say there are a total of 111,157 confirmed and probable cases of the Delta variant.

Cases of the highly transmissible strain are up by 35,204, or 46 per cent on the previous week.

Of the 111,157, 102,019 have been in England, 7,738 in Scotland, 788 in Wales and 612 in Northern Ireland.

Cases of the Delta variant make up 95 per cent of all confirmed infections in the UK.

It comes as a pilot scheme exploring the impact of large-scale events on Covid-19 transmission found “no substantial outbreaks” after nine mass gatherings took place.

Officials recorded just 28 associated cases of infections out of almost 60,000 people.

The Events Research Programme (ERP), commissioned by the Prime Minister in February, saw 58,000 participants attend indoor and outdoor venues across the country, including in Liverpool, Sheffield and London.

The ERP aims to assess the safety of mass gatherings during the pandemic and whether they affect rates of infection.

A delayed report on data from the first nine pilots of the ERP’s first phase in April and May, which featured the FA Cup final, the Brit Awards and the World Snooker Championship, revealed 28 associated positive cases of Covid-19.

Of these, 11 were identified as “potentially infectious at an event” while a further 17 were “potentially infected at or around the time of an event”, a report said.

Its release comes after theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber and other figures from entertainment sectors launched legal action to force the Government to hand over the results from the ERP scheme.

Its first phase saw 10 Covid-19 cases recorded from those at the Circus nightclub in Liverpool, which hosted nearly 7,000 people over two nights.

Some six cases were recorded from the more than 10,000 attendees at the World Snooker Championship that took place over 17 days.

No cases were found among the 3,500 people at the Brit Awards at London’s O2 Arena, while a combined eight cases were recorded out of the nearly 30,000 fans attending the FA Cup semi-final and final and the Carabao Cup final.

An outdoor festival pilot at Liverpool’s Sefton Park, where more than 6,000 attended, saw two cases, and the Reunion 5k run at Kempton Park in Surrey also recorded two cases from 2,000 attendees.

While the report said “no substantial outbreaks were identified by public health teams and their surveillance systems around any of the events” it said “direct evidence of the risk of coronavirus transmission at specific types of events could not be drawn from Phase I of the pilots”.

This was due to “the low prevalence of Covid-19 at the time of the pilot events; low levels of pre- and post-event PCR return and the limited scale, scope and design of pilots”.

In a foreword Nicholas Hytner and David Ross, chief advisers for the ERP, said the report “does not make conclusive public health recommendations on the reopening of events at this stage”.

They highlighted that studies took place during low prevalence of coronavirus, adding that “future public health measures need to adapt to the prevailing levels and patterns of the virus”.

Participants in phase one had to return a negative lateral flow test result to attend events and were asked to voluntarily take pre and post-event PCR tests to support research.

A range of measures to combat transmission of coronavirus were used at the events, including staggered entry and exit times, ventilation, social distancing and face masks.

The report, which saw input from scientific experts, said that “mitigation measures” – such as face coverings, ventilation, testing, social distancing and restrictions on food and drink – can be used to reduce and manage risks at events.

The report observed that levels of risk vary by venue, with outdoor spaces “generally lower risk than indoor spaces”.

It highlighted that higher risk areas include those which have an increased density of people for longer periods of time, for example half-time at a football match, and where ventilation is poorer.

Such higher density puts “increased pressure on pinch points”, such as toilets.

The report also warned that “large unstructured gatherings indoors” where people mix in close proximity pose a higher risk.

It observed that compliance with requirements to socially distance and wear face masks were “mostly high”, with lower face covering compliance associated with “higher attendance levels, circulation zones and exiting”.

Hospitality areas and people congregating in groups also saw people not wearing face coverings.

Overall the report observed that an average of 96.2 per cent of people in sampled areas wore face coverings correctly while seated, particularly indoors (98.3 per cent), while at outdoor events it was 92.1 per cent.

The report also said that “nearly all CO2 levels” recorded at events “were within the bounds of reasonable ventilation benchmarks with outdoor spaces clearly better for ventilation than indoors”.

The report noted that the ERP will continue to gather evidence from further events in subsequent phases.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Our innovative and science-led Events Research Programme is helping us to better understand how the risk of transmission at major events can be effectively mitigated.

“The findings and learnings will help event organisers plan for large audiences as we move to Step 4 of the road map.”

Mr Hytner said: “These events are so important for our wellbeing, our sense of community and togetherness, and they have been sorely missed.

“This programme has shown that through the public demonstrating their status we have been able to track the virus, creating a safer space for the public to get back to the events they love.

“The findings from the first phase of this programme will help facilitate the return of what so many of us enjoy: attending exciting and top quality events throughout the country when it is safe to do so.”

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