Britain records 11,299 Covid-19 cases in lowest daily figure for almost eight weeks but deaths rise to 608 in highest toll since May

  • Daily Covid infections fell 43.6% from 20,051 recorded last Tuesday and 27% on yesterday’s figure of 15,450
  • Deaths highest they’ve been since May 12, when disease claimed 614 victims but only 1.7% above last week
  • Fatalities lag two to three weeks behind infections trend due to the time it takes for people to fall seriously ill

Britain today recorded 40 per cent fewer coronavirus cases than a week ago in another sign that England’s lockdown is working, as 11,299 more positive tests were declared — but deaths are at a six-month high. 

Today’s infections marked a fall of 43.6 per cent on the 20,051 recorded last Tuesday and a drop of 27 per cent on yesterday’s figure of 15,450. Daily cases are now at their lowest since September, when there were fewer than 10,000.

The UK also announced 608 Covid-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, which is the highest since May 12, when the disease claimed 614 victims. 

However, there are signs that fatalities have started to level off as today’s death toll is only 1.7 per cent higher than last Tuesday, when there were 598 victims.

Covid-19 deaths lag two to three weeks behind the infections trend due to the time it takes for people to fall seriously ill with the disease. Experts anticipate deaths will start to tail off next month. 

The seven-day rolling average number of coronavirus cases — considered a more accurate measurement because it takes into account day-to-day fluctuations — is now 18,295, which is the lowest it’s been since October 20. Daily deaths are averaging 442.

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon hinting the Christmas respite from lockdown will not be the same in Scotland, as cracks in Boris Johnson’s joined-up festive coronavirus plans begin to show.

Ahead of a Cobra showdown with Michael Gove, the First Minister said she hoped there will be an agreement on a ‘common framework’ for the festive season.

But she hinted at splits between the nations saying the ‘precise definition of household’ is likely to vary. Scotland has different rules on gatherings compared to England, including not including under-12s in limits on numbers.

Meanwhile, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has admitted that loosening the restrictions over Christmas will inevitably lead to more cases of the deadly disease. 

In other coronavirus twists and turns today:

  • East Sussex, Herefordshire and Milton Keynes were the local authorities in England that suffered the biggest spikes in coronavirus cases during the most recent week, making them among the most likely to enter Tier Three rules when Boris Johnson announces England’s new local lockdowns on Thursday;
  • Number 10 cherry-picked ‘spurious’ Covid data to justify England’s second lockdown and may have intended to frighten the public, according to one of Britain’s top statisticians Sir David Spiegelhalter;
  • People should stay off work with the sniffles even after the Covid pandemic ends to protect their colleagues from getting sick, according to Matt Hancock who said Britons’ natural instincts to ‘soldier on’ and go to the office even when they are unwell ‘must change’;
  • London’s top restaurateurs and hoteliers today warned that placing the capital in Tier 3 would wipe out half the hospitality industry and trigger an ‘atomic bomb’ of job losses after Christmas;
  • Grant Shapps today urged Britons not to use trains at Christmas as they will be ‘too busy’ – as UK ministers meet to thrash out a plan to ease coronavirus rules so family reunions can happen;
  • Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective and costs less than $10 (£7) per dose, the country’s authorities have claimed.

Frantic efforts have been going on for days to find a joint position for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to allow some kind of family Christmas.

An announcement that restrictions on socialising will be relaxed for a few days over the festive season – probably December 23-27 – had been expected today, but that was cast into doubt earlier when government sources conceded that ‘details need ironing out’.

Speaking at Holyrood this afternoon, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I will take part in a Cobra meeting later today where it is hoped that we will agree a common framework – albeit that some details, for example on the precise definition of household – might differ to reflect the different circumstances in each nation.

‘I know everyone has a desire to see loved ones over the festive period. However there is also a very real and legitimate anxiety that doing so could put those we love at risk, set back our progress as a country and result in unnecessary deaths and suffering.’

Meanwhile, Mr Drakeford told the Welsh Parliament: ‘The Cabinet will meet again before the end of this week to see whether there are lessons for us to draw from what is happening elsewhere and a common approach across the United Kingdom in the lead-up to the Christmas period and importantly as well, in the way in which we will all have to deal with the inevitable consequences of the relaxation, which will drive a rise of coronavirus.

‘That is inevitable and we need to prepare together to cope with the consequences.’

As the wrangling continues between UK nations, Mr Johnson is facing a Tory revolt over his new local lockdown plans for December 2 onwards.

MPs have warned Boris Johnson that putting swathes of the country under draconian Tier Two and Three restrictions will be ‘catastrophic’ for businesses and spark a damaging new mutiny.

Ministers insist they are waiting for the latest local infection data to decide what brackets individual areas will be placed into, with the breakdown set to be published on Thursday.

However, senior Conservatives say the ‘mood music’ is that most places will be subject to the tougher levels – meaning heavy restrictions on bars and restaurants, as well as limits on households mixing.

There are complaints that the criteria being used to decide the Tier allocations are too vague, and the geographical areas too broad.

MPs and London Mayor Sadiq Khan have been lobbying to stay out of the harshest levels.

Alarmingly for Mr Johnson, the chair of the powerful 1922 said this afternoon that he is ‘inclined’ to oppose the measures in a vote next week. Sir Graham Brady said he was concerned the damage being inflicted on the economy will leave a ‘legacy we could be living with for years to come’.

Mr Johnson yesterday confirmed that the blanket lockdown in England will end as scheduled next Wednesday, but cautioned that coronavirus curbs need to stay in place until Easter despite more good news on vaccines.

Taking a press conference from self-isolation in Downing Street, Mr Johnson said: ‘Tis the season to be jolly, but it is also the season to be jolly careful, especially with elderly relatives.’

He added: ‘This is not the moment to let the virus rip for the sake of Christmas parties’.

The Government has revealed its new three-tier system for when the current lockdown ends on December 2.

Labour has said it is not certain to support the plan when it comes to a vote next week as Tiers are too ‘risky’, but looks more likely to abstain than outright oppose.

That means the government is almost guaranteed to win.

However, a substantial Tory rebellion would inflict a further blow to the PM’s authority.

Sir Graham told the BBC’s World at One he was unlikely to support the measures next week.

‘My concern is that huge numbers of businesses, particularly but not exclusively in the hospitality sector, have been losing money under Tier Two already,’ he said.

‘There is a very tight limit to how much longer than they can go on doing without seeing even bigger levels of unemployment, and particularly youth unemployment.

‘And we know that if we see that big economic hit, in terms of unemployment, in terms of opportunities for young people, the effects – not just economically, but the other health impacts, physical health and mental health – are enormous, and that is the legacy we could be living with for years to come.

Former minister Sir Desmond Swayne told MailOnline the critical moment will come when the Tiers are allocated.

‘There is lots of concern. Will anyone get away with Tier One?’ he said.

‘I was in Tier One before. The mood music seems to suggest that everybody is going up one – it’s going to be worse than before.

‘We will have gone from lockdown to lockdown by another name. This is indefinite – it goes on to the Spring. It is a miserable situation, but it is devastating for businesses.

‘It is catastrophic. These crazed scientists… to be fair they are only being asked how to stop the spread of a virus, but there has to be some consideration at a political level about how to stop the spread of economic disaster.’

Tory mayoral candidate for London Shaun Bailey and MPs in the capital have been urging the government to stop short of imposing Tier Three.

Mr Khan tweeted: ‘London’s unique ecosystem of bars, businesses, restaurants, clubs and cultural venues have been through an extremely tough year.

‘If they had to close throughout the Christmas period and beyond in Tier 3 – it would be a hammer blow that many might not recover from.’

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