UK records just three daily Covid deaths in lowest preliminary Sunday total since lockdown began
A further three people have died after testing positive for coroanvirus in Britain, preliminary figures show.
This figure brings the UK’s total death toll during the pandemic to 41,552.
The number is set to be much higher when the all settings figures – which include deaths in care homes and the wider community – are released later today.
Three people have died in hospital in England. Both Scotland and Wales have reported no new deaths.
Some 208 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Scotland alone while Wales has reported 98 new cases.
England has not released its case figures yet.
It comes as experts believe coronavirus spreading in lower doses is keeping death tolls and hospital admissions low but daily case totals high.
Social distancing measures mean an infected person would only be able to pass on traces of Covid-19 to another person, therefore the virus’s ‘infectious dose’ is lower.
Because the newly-infected person would have a smaller amount of the virus, their symptoms would not be as serious – in a similar manner to chicken pox.
While this would explain why a rise in cases has not lead to a rise in deaths, doctors have stressed that not enough is known about Covid-19 to determine whether it is dose-dependent.
But other viruses, including SARS and MERS – the coronaviruses behind two previous pandemic outbreaks – follow this pattern.
Cases of Covid-19 have been slowly creeping up in the UK since early July.
This may seem alarming, but it has not corresponded with an increase in the number of people dying from the virus.
In the first week of July, the number of new Covid-19 infections hit a low of roughly 550-a-day across the UK.
At that point there were about 150 people hospitalised with the virus every day in England alone and about 30 deaths.
Since then, the number of new infections has steadily risen. Last week, saw about 1,500 positive test results a day.
But the number of patients ending up in hospital and dying have continued to fall.
In the week ending September 4, there were a total of 51 UK deaths.
In England, there are about 450 patients in hospital with Covid-19 – well below the 17,000 that were during the pandemic’s peak in April.
Even in the Midlands, where there was a significant wave of cases throughout July and a return to lockdown in Leicester, the number of people in hospital or on ventilation has continued to fall.
There are now roughly seven patients in hospital in the Midlands NHS area on ventilators, from a peak of 485.
Bolton was last night placed under tighter Covid-19 restrictions as the infection rate in the area became the highest in England.
Bolton Council has asked for people in the town to avoid mixing with other households and to only use public transport for essential purposes.
The town’s infection rate recently increased to 99 cases per 100,000 people per week, the highest in England, the council said.
Greater Manchester as a whole saw 220 confirmed cases on Tuesday followed by 262 on Wednesday. Thursday saw a drop to 67.
Meanwhile, Leeds is teetering on the brink and has been added to Public Health England’s list of areas of concern – while measures will be eased in swathes of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Leicester next week.
The Yorkshire city, home to half a million people, has seen its infection rate rise to 32.4 new cases per 100,000 people, bringing it to the attention of authorities.
London saw 228 cases on August 27, followed by 214 on August 28 and 130 on August 29.
Bristol saw five cases on August 30, which climbed to eight on August 31 and 12 on September 1.
The Cardiff and Vale University Health Board saw a spike of 18 cases in one day on August 29.
Dr Elisabetta Groppelli, a virologist at St George’s University of London, said: ‘If you are exposed to a smaller amount of virus, fewer cells in your body get infected, so there’s time for your immune system to mount a response.
‘If you get lots of cells infected at once, you are already starting on the back foot.
‘There is not particularly solid data for Covid-19 at the moment, but it’s logical.’
Many comparisons have been drawn between Covid-19 and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.
A dose-dependent theory would offer an explanation for what happened then, too.
A 2010 analysis showed the second wave hit poorer communities living in more crowded conditions. They got bigger infectious doses, and many thousands died.
Dr Groppelli added: ‘Age and other illnesses play a huge role. But if I had to be infected with this coronavirus, I’d like the smallest dose possible because that would mean a higher chance of my body getting the infection under control.’
Professor Wendy Barclay, who’s head of the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, added: ‘It’s all about the size of the armies on each side of the battle,’ she says.
‘A very large virus army is difficult for our immune system’s army to fight off.
‘So standing further away from someone when they breathe or cough likely means fewer virus particles reach you, and then you get infected with a lower dose and get less ill.’
On the other hand, there is the possibility that, thanks to distancing and, more importantly, natural pandemic patterns, levels are down to what they were before testing even started – and a rise could still be seen, other medics warn.
Some point out that nothing has changed in the human immune system, so those who are vulnerable will remain so.
And when those levels do rise past a certain point, possibly in a few months’ time, the serious illness and death will follow.
It comes amid concerns that parts of northern England could be in the midst of a coronavirus endemic, according to leaked Public Health England documents.