Great Britain

Coronavirus spread could be slowing down in UK due to social distancing - new data

Professor Stephen Powell told journalists at the daily coronavirus briefing in Downing Street on Thursday that new data showed that people were no longer spreading the disease to multiple others. His remarks come as the UK suffered its deadliest day of the COVID-19 crisis, with 569 fatalities recorded in 24 hours. Modelling has shown that without social distancing, the average infected person passes the virus on to three people, who then each spread it to another three.

New government figures show that the rate may now have dropped to below one, which would be a major step forward in the fight to contain the outbreak.

Professor Powell said: “We know from evidence around the world, that if there are no social distancing measures in place, one person probably infects on average nearly three people.

“And so if you just work through the maths of that ... you very rapidly get into very, very high numbers.”

He argued that it was vital to cut the transmission rate and social distancing was the most effective tool to achieve that goal.


Matt Hancock said that the evidence pointed to the rate of transmission (Image: GETTY)


Social Distancing saves lives! (Image: GETTY)

The Health Secretary, who has just recovered from his COVID-19 illness, backed the assessment of the medical expert.

Matt Hancock said that the evidence pointed to the rate of transmission becoming more linear than exponential.

He added: “If people want to see the lockdown ended, they know what to do."

Mr Hancock also restated the government’s plans for testing, which have drawn heavy criticism from medical experts.

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The government has faced fierce criticism over testing (Image: GETTY)

The Health Secretary declared a new ambitious target of 100,000 COVID-19 tests per day by the end of April.

The testing programmes would involve both antigen and antibody tests – the former to detect those currently infected, while the latter would show whether someone had been infected without realising it.

He told journalists: “I’m now setting the goal of 100,000 tests per day by the end of this month.

“That is the goal and I’m determined we’ll get there.”

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The government is scrambling to provide NHS with more ventilators (Image: GETTY)


Scientists are in a race against time to develop a vaccine (Image: GETTY)

The UK currently has the capacity to carry out just under 13,000 tests a day, while Germany is able to screen up to 70,000 in a 24 hour period.

Mr Hancock said that one of the problems health officials had faced was sourcing swabs and chemical reagents for the tests.

Responding to criticism about the lack of testing for NHS staff, the Health Secretary admitted that it had been his decision to prioritise the testing of patients over everybody else.

Social distancing

Social distancing (Image: EXPRESS)

“I understand why NHS staff want tests, so they can get back to the frontline, of course I do,” he said.

“But I took the decision that the first priority has to be the patients for whom the results of a test could be the difference in treatment that is the difference between life and death.

“I believe anybody in my shoes would have taken the same decision.”


Many cities are becoming ghost towns (Image: GETTY)

Mr Hancock also announced that the government would wipe out £13 billion of historic debt owed by hospital trusts, so as to help the NHS free up resources to deal with the crisis.

The Health Secretary said: “Today, to help NHS trusts to deliver what’s needed without worrying about past finances, I can announce that I’m writing off £13.4bn of historic NHS debt.

“This landmark step will not only put the NHS in a stronger position to be able to respond to this global coronavirus pandemic, but it will ensure that our NHS has stronger foundations for the future too.”

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