The balance between protecting public health in the face of the pandemic and supporting economic activity has been the single biggest challenge for governments around the world since the start of the pandemic. While data is accumulating over time that supports their ability to do this, the picture around transmission risk and the mortality rate of the virus is still frustratingly blurry and is often skewed by politics.
This was underlined on Friday when an investigation for the government’s Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), confirmed that hospital admissions for COVID-19 were over-reported at the peak of the pandemic, with many people being included in disease statistics who had been hospitalised for other illnesses.
Meanwhile health authorities around Britain are trying to make sense of new data that shows a worrying spike in virus cases in some of the UK’s largest cities, particularly Birmingham.
Cases of coronavirus in the UK’s second city have risen to 30 cases per 100,000, more than doubling from 12 at the start of the month, its director of public health said on Thursday. The police and public health authorities urged people to curb their behaviour in order to avoid a return to a full lockdown.
Scotland announced 77 new cases of coronavirus, the highest number over a 24-hour period in nearly three months. Other areas which have previously been highlighted by the government as having high levels, including Manchester and Blackburn, continue to see case levels rising.
Figures released on Thursday show that contact tracing continues to be a major challenge for the government and not entirely reliable. The number of people in the UK with a positive test result whose cases were referred to the tracing system fell and more than one fifth of those were not reached by tracers.
Elsewhere in Europe, the signs are not optimistic. France, Germany and Italy all saw their biggest daily rise in cases since the spring over the course of this week, while Spain is in the grip of a major outbreak with 3,715 new cases on Wednesday alone. In one bright spot for British holidaymakers, however, Portugal has been removed from the UK government’s quarantine list.
In a sign of how far China, the presumed source and first epicentre of coronavirus, has normalised, authorities in Beijing have removed a requirement for people to wear a mask outside after 13 consecutive days without a new case.
Asian shares were up again into Friday following continued strength last night in the major US indices.
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