THE fall in coronavirus deaths in England is three weeks ahead of the government’s estimates, new figures show.
Experts have called for lockdown restrictions to be eased more quickly as fatalities and cases continue to decline.
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Experts have suggested that a steep fall in Covid deaths could be down to the vaccine rollout starting to take effectCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Boris Johnson has repeatedly stressed that he will be guided by “data not dates” as the country leaves lockdown.
But a steep fall in cases and deaths, combined with the success of the vaccine rollout, have prompted fresh calls to lift measures more rapidly.
The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (SPI-M), which advises the government, published its most recent modelling on deaths on February 1o.
It estimated that fatalities would not drop below 200 a day until mid-March – but this point was reached on February 28 when 144 deaths were recorded.
The SPI-M model also suggested there would be 150 deaths a day by March 21 – but fatalities have hovered around this number in the past week.
Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh and a member of SPI-M, told the Telegraph: “The data are indeed looking better than the models were predicting and – to the best of my knowledge – better than anyone was expecting.
“If the phrase ‘data-driven not date-driven’ has any meaning, then it must allow for the schedule for relaxing restrictions to be brought forward if the data are better than expected and not just putting the schedule back if the data are worse than expected.”
But he stressed that there was still a risk of a resurgence in cases should the country unlock too quickly.
The SPI-M’s modelling does not account for the success of the vaccine in cutting hospitalisations and deaths so significantly.
The model estimates that the jab programme will cut the risk of infection by between 24 and 48 per cent after the first dose, and 30 to 60 per cent after the second dose.
But Public Health England data has shown that vaccination is far more effective, slashing the risk of serious symptoms by 80 per cent three weeks after the first dose.
The PHE study was based on people aged over 80 – the first group to receive the vaccine.
Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, of the University of Cambridge, also said new data showed that deaths in the over-65s, many of whom have now been jabbed, are now halving every week.
He added: “We all sort of hoped something like this might happen – but frankly it is better than anyone expected.”
It comes as Matt Hancock today claimed that freedom is on horizon” and said the UK was on track for all adults to be jabbed by July as vaccines will be ramped up this month.
Hospital admissions were falling faster than new cases, he confirmed today.
The halving time of hospital admissions is now at 18 days – but for over 80s it’s 12 days as so many have been jabbed, he said.
He said: “This is real world evidence that the vaccine is protecting the NHS and saving lives.”