UK coronavirus death toll soars by 462 in biggest Saturday jump since early May

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The UK's coronavirus death toll has increased by 462 – the highest rise on a Saturday for six months – as almost 27,000 more people tested positive.

The daily death toll, in all settings, is one of the worst of the second wave and the most fatalities on a Saturday since 587 on May 2, when the UK was emerging from its initial peak of the pandemic.

Statistically, this has been one of the worst weeks of the crisis, with 563 fatalities announced on Thursday, 595 on Wednesday (the highest one-day toll since May) and 532 on Tuesday.

Earlier on Saturday, a further 370 hospital deaths were confirmed – 304 in England, 36 in Scotland, 20 in Wales and 10 in Northern Ireland.

There have now been 51,766 deaths in all settings within 28 days of a positive test. However, the number of fatalities mentioning Covid-19 on the death certificate is 61,648, as of October 30.

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NHS staff wear PPE as they care for an intensive care patient (file photo)
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A further 26,860 people have tested positive for the virus in 24 hours, bringing the total to 1.34 million, the Government said.

Meanwhile, a Government scientific adviser has warned the next two weeks will be "absolutely crucial" in ensuring that England's coronavirus lockdown ends as planned.

Professor Susan Michie, a member of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), urged the public to resist breaking current rules, to "be in a position" to spend the festive period with loved ones.

She also suggested that the announcement of a potential Covid-19 vaccine could lead to complacency with the measures, adding that the jab will make "no difference" to the current wave.

It comes after documents released by Sage on Friday warned that a return to the tiered system of coronavirus restrictions will see infections rise again.

When asked what should replace current restrictions when lockdown ends, Professor Michie told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's too early to know. I think the next two weeks is going to be absolutely crucial.

"They're going to be a very challenging two weeks, partly because of the weather, partly because, I think, the promise of a vaccine may be making people feel complacent.

The latest R number by NHS England region, as of November 13

This chart shows the number of Covid-19 hospital inpatients in England

"But the vaccine is very unlikely to come in until the end of the year or beginning of next year and that's going to make no difference to the current second wave.

"So I think for the next two weeks, everybody has to really get all their resolve together."

Professor Michie, a behavioural scientist at University College London, advised the public to "really pay attention to resisting any urges to break the rules" on social distancing and visiting other households.

"Because that will maximise the chance that in two weeks' time, on December 2, we're in a position where actually we don't have to continue the lockdown," she added.

"And better still, what everybody wants, is to be in a position where they can spend the Christmas and winter holiday times with loved ones."

When asked if this meant the gains during lockdown would be lost, Professor Michie said she was "quite hopeful" after tough measures in Wales and Northern Ireland brought transmission rates down.

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Newly-released documents, written the day before the second national lockdown was imposed, show a consensus statement prepared by a modelling subgroup of Sage raised concerns about returning to the tier system.

Modelling found that if the lockdown is "well-adhered to", it is likely to reduce the reproduction number to less than 1, with hospital admissions and deaths expected to fall until at least the second week of December.

But the document, dated November 4, added: "If England returns to the same application of the tiering system in place before November 5, then transmission will return to the same rate of increase as today."

Other documents from late October state that any hopes of families gathering at Christmas will also be dependent on the R value staying below 1 for "some time".

On Friday, Sage said that the R rate for the UK has fallen to 1-1.2, with experts believing it is already below 1 in some places.

It is hoped that R will drop in more places next week or the week after, as people remain under lockdown restrictions.