Daily UK Covid stats to be scrapped…but not until APRIL

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Daily Covid statistics are set to be dropped in April under the Government’s plan to live with the virus like the flu, it was claimed today. 

Boris Johnson has already laid out his intention to scrap all remaining Covid laws — including the legal requirement for infected people to self-isolate — by March 24.  

And now a senior Whitehall source has claimed daily updates on cases, deaths and hospitalisations will be axed just weeks later. 

Experts today hailed the rumoured move, arguing the Government should also push forward plans to end mass testing. Free lateral flows are not expected to be ditched until July.

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline ‘we have to stop producing the daily stats’ at some point.

Since Omicron took hold at the start of December around six million positive cases have been reported

The number of Covid infections reported on the Government website is expected to soar today when reinfections are included for the first time. However, the update will reduce the case fatality rate (CFR) – the percentage out of all those cases that end in death – by a significant amount

Covid’s death rate is even lower than we thought 

Covid’s death rate is lower than thought, official data suggests after nearly 600,000 reinfections were piled into the Government’s own tally.

Fatality rates from the coronavirus are up to 30 times lower now than during the devastating second wave, thanks to the build-up of natural immunity, a hugely successful vaccination drive and the milder nature of Omicron.

But the proportion of infected people who end up dying has fallen by another 10 per cent after last night’s update, according to MailOnline’s analysis. 

Just 0.23 per cent of all confirmed cases led to deaths in England before the long-awaited addition of reinfections, UK Health Security Agency statistics suggest. However, the rate for exactly the same time period — which relates to mid-January — has now dropped to 0.21 per cent because of the addition of extra cases. 

This is still slightly above flu, which has a case-fatality rate of around 0.1 per cent. But some experts claim the two figures are very similar, even if coronavirus is much more transmissible.  

He claimed April was a ‘reasonable’ time to push ahead with the move, which was leaked to the i newspaper. 

The Government source said that the Prime Minister himself has ‘pencilled in Easter as the latest date by which the daily Covid statistics will be published in their current form’. 

‘In an ideal situation, he (Mr Johnson) will bring an end to them sooner if the current downward trend in deaths continues,’ the insider added.

‘Ending the daily Covid death toll is part of the Prime Minister’s strategy of living with Covid. 

‘It is hoped taking the focus away from the Covid figures will also help people move on with their lives.’

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Department of Health and Social Care both declined to comment.     

Scientists have repeatedly called for an end to the daily updates since the Omicron wave took off.

The link between infections and severe disease has been severed too much to justify keeping a ticking count of every case in the country, they say. 

Professor Hunter told MailOnline: ‘At some point we have to stop producing the daily stats.’

He said the ‘large majority’ of experts have known for years the coronavirus won’t be going away, with most also believing it will evolve into a common cold. 

Professor Hunter said: ‘If anything the evidence that this is the case is stronger now than it was back then.’

He warned it may be too early to scrap the counts now because of high infections and the emergence of the BA.2 variant, but by April weekly counts like with flu are likely to be ‘appropriate’. 

The epidemiologist said: ‘April may well be a reasonable time to stop but clearly a lot can happen before then. 

‘Any final decision should be taken closer to the time when we can see what is happening at that point.  

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline 'we have to stop producing the daily stats' at some point, with April a 'reasonable' time to push ahead with the move

Professor David Livermore, a medical microbiologist at UEA, agreed April would be the right time to ditch the stats and mass testing

Professor Paul Hunter (left), an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline ‘we have to stop producing the daily stats’ at some point, with April a ‘reasonable’ time to push ahead with the move. Professor David Livermore (right), a medical microbiologist at UEA, agreed April would be the right time to ditch the stats and mass testing

The proportion of ‘incidental’ Covid deaths where the virus was not the main cause has continued to increase to 27 per cent in England and Wales in the week ending January 21, Office for National Statistics data showed today

The majority of Covid patients in English hospitals are not primarily being treated for the virus for the first time in the pandemic. The share of primary Covid patients has plummeted since the emergence of the super-mild Omicron variant in late November, when three-quarters of inpatients were mainly ill with the disease

The majority of Covid patients in English hospitals are not primarily being treated for the virus for the first time in the pandemic. The share of primary Covid patients has plummeted since the emergence of the super-mild Omicron variant in late November, when three-quarters of inpatients were mainly ill with the disease

The above graph shows the case fatality rate ¿ the proportion of Covid cases leading to deaths ¿ by primary infection (red) and by both primary infections and reinfections (orange). It shows the CFR has dropped by about 10 per cent

The above graph shows the case fatality rate — the proportion of Covid cases leading to deaths — by primary infection (red) and by both primary infections and reinfections (orange). It shows the CFR has dropped by about 10 per cent

‘Also at that point, we should also consider whether the large scale testing of asymptomatic individuals is still worthwhile. 

‘My view is that is probably won’t be worthwhile and we should then stop large scale testing. 

‘We still need to be able to offer testing to people who are clearly ill and so a move more towards what we now do for influenza seems appropriate.’

He suggested the weekly reporting of cases, deaths and hospitalisations as with flu ‘would be the way forward’.

Professor David Livermore, a medical microbiologist at UEA, agreed April would be the right time to ditch the stats and mass testing.

He told MailOnline: ‘It is the right thing to do: daily case statistics and mass testing both need to be wound down.

‘The virus has mutated to a milder form, and there is substantial population immunity from recent infection and vaccination.

‘Consequently, the infection fatality rate is now little different from that of flu, and we don’t obsess over daily case rates for that, even in a bad winter.’

He said the only updates needed going forward are background surveillance like the Royal College of GPs Respiratory Infections Surveillance study. 

It comes after MailOnline analysis yesterday revealed Covid’s fatality rate is actually lower than thought.

Mortality rates from the virus are up to 30 times lower now than during the second wave, thanks to the build-up of natural immunity, a hugely successful vaccination drive and the milder nature of Omicron.

But the proportion of infected people who end up dying has fallen by another 10 per cent after the inclusion of nearly 600,000 reinfections, data suggests.

Just 0.23 per cent of all confirmed cases led to deaths in England before the long-awaited addition of reinfections, UK Health Security Agency statistics suggest. However, the rate for exactly the same time period — which relates to mid-January — has now dropped to 0.21 per cent because of the addition of extra cases.

This is still slightly above flu, which has a case-fatality rate of around 0.1 per cent. But some experts claim the two figures are very similar, even if coronavirus is much more transmissible.

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