Covid cases and 'in effect' deaths are 'flatlining' days before second lockdown, Oxford scientist claims

CASES of the coronavirus and "in effect" deaths are "flatlining", one Oxford scientist has claimed.

England is set to be plunged into a second lockdown later this week and one expert has now claimed that predictions shared by the government are "uncertain".

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A Downing Street press conference held on Saturday revealed stark predictions on the trajectory the virus is currently taking.

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine today said that cases are now "shifting in a way they weren't three weeks ago".

His comments come after government scientists claimed that there would be more than 4,000 deaths a day by December, caused by the coronavirus, if the spread was not curbed.

The projections were based on research conducted three weeks ago by Cambridge University.

Experts have questioned why the work is still being used to make decisions when the university has published more recent research, whose estimated death tolls are considerably lower.

They also point out that the original research suggested the daily death toll would by now be around 1,000 day.

They are starting to flatline – admissions are flatlining and in effect deaths are starting to flatline


The average daily death toll in England over the last week was 260 – roughly four times lower.

The most recent research from Cambridge reportedly forecasts 240 daily deaths for next week, and around 500 in the second half of November.

The projections didn't include figures for December, but are broadly far lower than the ones used by the prime minister as grounds for a national lockdown.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme this morning, Prof Heneghan said the nerve casting and forecasting system only predicts about two weeks into the future.

The Oxford expert said: "After that point it becomes highly uncertain and why’s that? Because cases are shifting in a way that they weren’t three weeks ago.

"They are starting to flatline – admissions are flatlining and in effect deaths are starting to flatline.

"There will be an update I hope on this system that will give us a clear understanding of where we are going.

"Also today the ONS (Office for National Statistics) will be reporting on excess deaths so the next 24 hours will give much more useful information that should inform whether a lockdown occurs or not."

England will go into a second lockdown on Thursday.

This is set to be a looser lockdown than the first – with schools remaining open.

Pubs and restaurants will close, as will all non-essential shops.

Data drops

Outdoor exercise will be permitted and you will be able to meet outdoors with one other person from another household.

The new measures have been put in place to drive down infections on a national scale after the tier system – which saw more localised restrictions, failed to drive cases down by a substantial amount.

The Prime Minister said the NHS could be overwhelmed if cases continue to rise and that service could struggle to treat all patients.

Looking specifically at hospital admissions and Prof Henghan said it's important to look at patients in hospital, not the number being admitted.

He added: "Hospital admission doesn’t take into account discharges – it doesn’t tell you who that person is, everyone going into hospital is being tested.

"If you look at the patients in hospital data that’s a much more useful measure.

"If you look at it on the 31 October it was 9,213 and it actually dropped for the first time on 1 November to 9,077, by about 130 patients, that’s the first drop in over a month on that data set.

"So I'd look at patients in hospital, not the number being admitted which is very variable and quite noisy in what it’s contents are", he added.

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