Covid: Almost 100,000 infections every day as infection rate in England 'points in completely the wrong direction'

Credit: PA

When it rains, it pours. And when it comes to the coronavirus news-cycle, even by those standards, this week has brought some deeply worrying news.  

Just days after professors from Imperial College London confirmed suspicions that our antibody response to Covid-19 weakens significantly over time, the very same group of scientists have put out another study, which makes for equally grim reading.  

The REACT-1 findings cover infection rates across England up until Sunday, October 25 – making this the most up to date evaluation of how quickly the virus is spreading. 

All of that data, across the country, is pointing in completely the wrong direction.

The R-value across England could be as high as 1.6, though this varies by region, and the epidemic is doubling every nine days. That equates to 96,000 new infections every day. 

A coronavirus advice sign in Sheffield city centre. Credit: PA

It brings into question any recent suggestion that the virus is slowing down, though there are some signs this is happening in the North West and North East, where restrictions are currently the most severe

But the harsh reality is that even this is not enough. The government needs the trend to reverse, and this is simply not happening.  

The tier system of restrictions has only been in place for a matter of weeks, so ministers will likely argue that we are not at the point where we would see these measures take effect.  

Of course, the incubation period for the virus does mean there are delays in policy changes being reflected in the data. 

A Covid-19 sign in Manchester. Credit: PA

But local lockdown measures in some form have been in place for much longer in Covid-19 hotspots. In parts of Greater Manchester, measures have been in place since July, including bans on household mixing.  

Those areas have had a steady rise in Covid cases regardless, and sadly that is now being reflected in hospitals admissions and deaths.  

According to the REACT scientists, the South of England is now not too far behind, potentially “only a matter of weeks away”.  

Questions will inevitably now turn to Westminster, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing surely the biggest dilemma of his time in Downing Street.

Boris Johnson has admitted the Test and Trace system needs to improve. Credit: PA

The REACT study’s findings will only increase calls from many in the scientific community that tougher action needs to be taken, and fast, putting more pressure on the PM. 

A circuit breaker? Moving the entirety of England into Tier 3 restrictions? Mr Johnson will have been weighing up these measures for weeks, but time is of the essence.  

Sage, the designated group of scientists advising the government, has already called for tougher measures, and Downing Street is facing accusations it has backtracked on the promise made so early in the pandemic to “follow the science”.   

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance either side of Boris Johnson at a Downing Street briefing. Credit: PA

It’s quite simply impossible to believe now that under current measures, rates of infection will start decreasing. Further action is inevitable. 

Albeit with the benefit of hindsight, the government was accused first time around of acting too slowly and not implementing lockdown quickly enough.

There are fears the same is happening again. 

As one REACT scientist put it bluntly: "There has to be a change”.