UK records 18,262 new Covid cases – down a fifth in a week

UK records 18,262 new Covid cases – down a fifth in a week – as daily deaths also plunge by almost a THIRD to 828

The UK has recorded  18,262 new coronavirus cases – down a fifth in just one week.

In a triumphant sign that the UK’s third national lockdown has slowed the spread of a highly-infectious Covid-19 variant, today’s daily case total is 21.5 per cent lower than the 23,275 seen on this day last week. 

Britain’s daily death toll has also seen a week-on-week drop – with 828 fatalities recorded today.

The figure is 31 per cent lower than the 1,200 seen last Saturday.

Today’s figures come as Worcestershire began ‘surge testing’ after the South African coronavirus variant was detected.

Worcestershire County Council has set up surge testing in the WR3 postcode and parts of the WR9 postcode after cases of the variant with no links to international travel were identified. 

It comes as a million people in the North West of England have been told to take a Covid test if they have a runny nose, as part of a clampdown on a mutated virus detected in the region. 

A mobile testing unit has been set up at The White Hart pub in Fernhill Heath, near Worcester, for adults with no symptoms living within walking distance, a drive-through testing site will open and door-to-door testing will be rolled out. 

Staff instruct a person on how to carry out a Covid-19 test at a mobile testing unit set up at the White Hart pub in Fernhill Heath, near Worcester

Worcestershire County Council said: ‘Working in partnership with NHS Test and Trace, every person over the age of 18, living in the WR3 postcode and some WR9 postcodes, is strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test this week, even if they are not showing symptoms.’ 

Meanwhile, residents in the Liverpool city region, Preston and Lancashire have been urged by health bosses to get swabbed if they have even the slightest suspicion they are ill. 

It comes after more than 40 cases of an altered strain of the original virus, which carries a mutation experts fear makes vaccines less potent, was spotted in the three areas. 

Meanwhile, all passengers arriving in Britain from countries not on the Covid hotspot list could have to take four tests during their isolation period. 

A member of the public grimaces as he is tested for Covid-19 at a mobile testing unit set up at the White Hart pub

In another significant toughening of border policy, travellers from safer countries will be told they must take the PCR tests during the standard ten-day home quarantine period.

While SAGE warned only mandatory hotel quarantine for all UK travellers would ‘come close’ to to stop new strains entering the country, it has emerged.

On the Worcestershire outbreak Dr Kathryn Cobain, director for public health in the county, said: ‘I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant.’

Despite the frantic bid to try and stop the mutated variants spreading in Britain, scientists have warned the cases identified so far are likely just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. 

Door-to-door and mobile testing began in Britain at the start of the month as part of urgent efforts to swab 80,000 people. This came after 11 cases of the variant were identified in people who had no links to travel – suggesting it may be spreading in communities.  

Any positive results as part of surge testing programmes will be sent for genome sequencing to identify the variant – a process which usually takes around a fortnight. 

The alteration, scientifically known as E484K, is also found on the South African and Brazilian variants which have led to Britain toughening up its border controls.

Even though the mutation does not specifically cause any different symptoms to the original strain, officials are broadening the criteria for a swab as a safety net to snuff out cases that would normally go undetected.

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