Ross Clark

Is the second wave slowing?

Is the second wave slowing?
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New confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been rising now since early July — steadily at first and then sharply since early September. But is there any sign of an increase in deaths?   

The latest weekly figures from the Office for National Statistics for deaths in England and Wales, released this morning, do record an increase in deaths where Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate. In week 38 (ending 18 September) there were 139 such deaths — 40 more than the previous week. To put that into perspective, they accounted for 1.5 per cent of all deaths. They continue to be dwarfed by deaths in which ‘influenza and pneumonia’ is mentioned as a cause — which accounted for 14 per cent of all deaths. In neither case — Covid or influenza and pneumonia — are they necessarily the main cause of death. It means they were mentioned somewhere on the death certificate.

Overall, deaths in week 38 ran a little higher than normal for this time of year — the overall weekly total of 9,523 was up 259 on the five-year average. The figure, however, is not a result of Covid but reflects a very sharp increase in deaths taking place in private homes – which was 711 higher than the five-year average. Deaths in hospitals and care homes, by contrast, were respectively 365 and 68 lower than the five-year average.

Meanwhile, recorded cases of Covid-19 have fallen for the third day running — and sharply, too. On Monday, 4,044 new cases were reported, down from 5,693 on Sunday, 6,042 on Saturday and 6,874 on Friday. While there is a certain amount of noise in the figures — and particular issues at the weekend — this is the first time new cases have recorded three daily falls in a row since 17 August. If we see the rate falling further over the next few days it will provoke serious questions, including more scrutiny of the graph presented by Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, which projected doubling in infections every week until mid-October.    

But it ought to come as no surprise: second waves in Spain and France, too, briefly followed an exponential path before levelling off to something less than that. In Spain, deaths have been on a downward trend for over a week now. Whether this is a result of measures introduced to combat the second wave of Covid-19 or natural decay of the epidemic is impossible to say.

Written byRoss Clark

Ross Clark is a leader writer and columnist who, besides three decades with The Spectator, writes for the Daily Telegraph and several other newspapers

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