UK COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions and deaths have been continuing to rise since many restrictions were lifted in July.
Dr Anne Cori, Imperial College London said it was unclear when a peak would be reached: "In most scenarios we have modelled, yes, cases, hospitalisations, and even deaths continue to rise for a few weeks. But when and how high the peak is, is very hard to anticipate. This is because we still don’t know exactly the extent of protection given by vaccination or by previous infection, or how long this protection lasts. In optimistic scenarios where protection is good and long-lasting, the peak is pretty much now, at current level, but in pessimistic scenarios, the peak in hospitalisations is higher than in the last wave – although the peak in deaths is much lower thanks to the high coverage of vaccination. This is all assuming no new variant of concern arises."
And she said the impact of children going back to school is also hard to predict: "I think we will see a combined effect of kids returning to school but also adults going back to the office and mixing more indoors as we enter the autumn. All this is likely to contribute to an increase in transmission, but again it’s difficult to predict precisely the magnitude of that increase."
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey estimates that in the week to 20 August:
- In England, 1 in 70 people had COVID-19
- In Scotland, 1 in 140 people had COVID-19
- In Wales, 1 in 120 people had COVID-19
- In Northern Ireland, 1 in 40 people had COVID-19
Kara Steel from ONS said: "The data released today show infection rates have increased across all four UK nations in the week ending 20 August 2021."
She added: "The continued surveillance of COVID-19 infection levels is critical as we move towards the autumn months."
England's R number is 1.0 to 1.1 and the growth rate range is 0% to +2%.
Some case clusters have been linked with major events. Cornwall Council said at least 4700 COVID-19 cases may be linked to the Boardmasters festival held on 11-15 August.
Director of Public Health, Rachel Wigglesworth, said: "COVID cases have been rising steadily across Cornwall over recent weeks – particularly in our tourist hotspots. This is an inevitable consequence of the lifting of restrictions and the delta variant’s increased transmissibility. It is quite a different picture to last summer."
She added: "We will continue to monitor the data as it becomes available, but we expect the festival will have contributed to the rise in cases we’re currently seeing."
This week's data from King's College London's ZOE STUDY app show there are currently 51,961 new daily symptomatic cases of COVID in the UK on average, up 19% from last week.
It estimates there are currently 15,309 new daily symptomatic cases in fully vaccinated people, accounting for 29.4% of total cases.
Study lead, Professor Tim Spector, said: "Unfortunately, we’re back in a position where cases, hospitalisations and deaths are all going up and the UK has the highest rates of COVID in Europe, despite our superior vaccination rates. The main difference between the UK and Europe is our lack of restrictions. In many parts of Europe, people are still wearing face coverings and observing some social distancing. In the UK, where we eagerly declared ‘freedom’ from COVID and did away with even the most basic social measures, COVID has found an opportunity to spread. As kids head back to the classrooms, there’s a good chance cases will continue to rise from here."
Public Health England weekly surveillance indicators "suggest that at a national level COVID-19 activity has been stable" in week 33.
Case rates were highest in 10 to 29-year-olds, with a 7-day rate of 616.5 per 100,000 population.
England's Test and Trace service reported 200,705 people tested positive 12-18 August, a 5% increase compared with the previous week.
Deaths in England and Wales in the week ending 13 August were 14.0% above the 5-year average.
COVID-19 accounted for 5.5% of all deaths.
Across the UK, latest data show 77.7% of 16s and over are fully vaccinated, and 88.1% have received a first dose.
The latest vaccine push is seeing jabs on offer at this weekend's Reading and Leeds festivals.
See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.