Covid-19 cases among people in their 20s have tripled since July, official data shows, as ministers plead with young people to obey coronavirus restrictions.
MailOnline analysis shows infections have surged from 9.2 to 28 cases per 100,000 since July 4, ‘Super Saturday’, in those aged 20 to 29.
And the case rate has also quadrupled among teenagers – those aged 10 to 19 years old – over July and August, before schools reopened, from 4.1 cases per 100,000 people to 16.2.
At the same time, cases in elderly groups have almost halved after they made up the majority of Covid-19 cases during the height of the crisis.
Data from Public Health England shows for the broader group of those aged between 15 and 44, the case infection rate has doubled over August from 8.8 to 21.9.
However, the data does not factor in that at the start of the pandemic, it was mostly people in hospitals – who were old and very unwell – that could access tests, and younger, healthier people were very unlikely to show symptoms serious enough to get one.
Now the situation is very different, and its possible for anyone to get a test even if they are not showing any symptoms. This may skew the results slightly.
It comes after a number of restrictions on people’s lives were lifted, allowing those of working age and younger to work and socialise in pubs, parks and summer barbeques.
The Eat out To Help Out scheme over August also drove younger generations to restuarants in their millions.
Yesterday Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said on Monday that the public had ‘relaxed too much’ over the summer and described the rising number of cases as of ‘great concern’.
And Health Secretary Matt Hancock implored young people to stick to social distancing after revealing cases had soared primarily in those aged under 25.
He warned not doing so could ‘kill your Gran’, as scientists warn coronavirus cases could climb into the older, and more vulnerable, generations.
Data from Public Health England shows for the broader group of those aged between 15 and 44, the case infection rate has doubled over August from 8.8 to 21.9
But they have continued to decline in the older age groups
Cumulative cases in those aged between 10 to 19 and 20 to 29 over the course of the pandemic. It shows cases have increased from July 5
Cumulative cases in those aged between 70 and above 80 over the course of the pandemic. It shows cases have continued to decline over the summer
On Sunday and Monday together, almost 6,000 new cases were reported by The Department of Health.
Calling the figures ‘concerning’, Mr Hancock told LBC radio yesterday: ‘The message to all your younger listeners [on LBC] and everybody is that even though you are at a lower risk of dying from the coronavirus, if you’re that age, if you’re under 25, you can still have really serious symptoms and consequences.’
He said the most important point to get across was that the uptick in cases in the past few days have been in younger people under 25, ‘especially 17 to 21 year olds’.
He said: ‘Over the summer we had particular problems in some of the areas that are most deprived. Actually, the recent increase we’ve seen over the last few days is more broadly spread and is not concentrated in poorer areas.
‘It’s actually amongst more affluent younger people especially that we’ve seen the rise.
‘And that is where people really need to hear this message and abide by it – which is that everybody has a responsibility for social distancing to keep themselves safe and to keep others safe.’
‘PEOPLE HAVE RELAXED TOO MUCH’, WARNS TOP MEDIC
Coronavirus must be taken very seriously again or the UK will face ‘a bumpy ride over the next few months’, a deputy chief medical officer has warned after a ‘big change’ in infections.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said on Monday that the public had ‘relaxed too much’ over the summer and described the rising number of cases as of ‘great concern’, despite the Health Secretary insisting it was not out of control.
The deputy chief medical officer for England issued the warning as Caerphilly in south Wales prepared to be placed under local lockdown and stricter measures were extended in Scotland.
In an interview with journalists, Prof Van-Tam said: ‘This is a big change. It’s now consistent over two days and it’s of great concern at this point.
‘We’ve been able to relax a bit over the summer, the disease levels have been really quite low in the UK through the summer but these latest figures really show us that much as people might like to say ‘oh well it’s gone away’ – this hasn’t gone away.
‘And if we’re not careful, if we don’t take this incredibly seriously from this point in we’re going to have a bumpy ride over the next few months.’
He said that the rise is ‘much more marked’ in the 17-21 age group, but noted there is a ‘more general and creeping geographic trend’ across the UK.
‘People have relaxed too much,’ Prof Van-Tam said. ‘Now is the time for us to re-engage and realise that this is a continuing threat to us.’
The daily cases given by the Department of Health are not broken down into age categories. However, Public Health England give a more in-depth analysis of cases in a weekly report, showing how people of different age groups, ethnicities and parts of England have fared.
This can be applied to the population of each age group – 2019 data from the Office for National Statistics – to give a case rate per 100,000 people.
MailOnline analysis shows the rate of cases per 100,000 people has tripled in those aged 20 to 29 years old from July 5 to August 30, from 9.2 to 28.
Similarly, the rate in 10-19 year olds has tripled from 4.1 to 16.2 in the same time period.
In comparison, the infection rate has continued to decline in the older populations, particularly in the over 80s.
Some 6.6 cases per 100,000 people were diagnosed in the week to August 30, almost half the 11.8 in the week to July 5.
Infections have stayed stable among those in their 60s and 70s, while very slightly increasing in those between the ages of 40 to 59 years old.
PHE has a similar analysis, but with broader age bands, showing the same trends.
In the age group 15 to 44 years, cases have risen from their lowest point of 8.8 on July 5 to 21.9 now. At the worst point, the rate was 45.7 in the week ending April 26.
In that same week, one of the worst of the pandemic, the case rate in over 85s was 293.9. But now, it has dropped significantly to 8.6.
This the lowest it has been since the pandemic began, showing cases are continuously fizzling out in the older groups while rising in youngsters.
In PHE’s most recent report, the agency gives its own case rate per 100,000 people in the week from August 23 to August 30, and its highest in those in their 20s.
There were 26.5 cases per 100,000, four times higher than that of those in their 80s and beyond, at 6.2.
There are disparities across the country, however, with case rates higher in the north-west, where swathes of towns have been put under tighter Covid restrictions due to rising cases.
There were 49.3 cases per 100,000 people in their 20s in the north-west compared to 17.3 in both the South West and South East – the lowest of all regions.
In London the rate was 24.9, higher than the East (20.1), East Midlands (18.9). Yorkshire and the Humber (35.7), North East (34.9), and West Midlands (29.2) are on the higher end of the scale.
Similar patterns are seen in those in their teens, with the North West (26.2) and North East (24.2) at the top of the table, and the South West (12.6) and South East (16.5) at the bottom.
Dr Andrew Preston, a reader in microbial pathogenesis at the University of Bath, said a rise in infections among young people was ‘inevitable’.
He told MailOnline: ‘Easing of restrictions equates to increasing interactions between people which, as the virus was still circulating at that time, means increased transmission.
‘The disproportionate increase in infections among the younger age groups is due to a number of factors.
‘If you feel less at risk from infection, you’re bound to take fewer precautions. It is clear that social distancing is not being adhered to in a number of mainly social situations.
‘But was it naive to expect strict adherence in pubs and other venues? But also, are these younger age groups leading the effort to restart the economy by going out and spending?
ONS DATA SHOWS INFECTIONS HAVE FALLEN OVER SUMMER
Weekly data published by the Office for National Statistics suggests that coronavirus cases in England have declined over the summer.
The figures, based on mass testing done in random households around the country, are estimates of how many people are catching the virus each day. The estimates started high in May, during lockdown, then fell in June and July as lockdown ended.
There was a spike at the end of July but testing suggests cases have stablised.
Here are the ONS’s weekly estimates of new cases per day:
- August-25: 2,000
- August-20: 2,200
- August-13: 2,400
- August-09: 3,800
- August-02: 3,700
- July-26: 4,200
- July-19: 2,800
- July-12: 1,700
- July-05: 1,700
- June-27: 3,600
- June-21: 3,100
- June-13: 3,800
- June-07: 4,500
- May-30: 5,600
- May-24: 7,700
- May-17: 8,700
‘It highlights that probably, it is impossible to restart the economy, with service and hospitality being so central to it, without increasing infections.’
‘Super Saturday’ on July 4 was the biggest step out of lockdown, when pubs, restaurants and bars were allowed to re-open their doors.
People in England flooded to their favourite spots in their droves after several months in lockdown.
Afterwards came the successful Eat out To Help Out Scheme, giving diners 50 per cent of their food bill designed to boost the struggling hospitality industry.
Meanwhile, the older generations, some of whom may have been significantly vulnerable to Covid-19 due to health conditions, have continued to be extra cautious, scientists say.
Dr Preston said the rise in cases in their teenage years and beyond eventually comes down to the ‘impossible balancing act of public health versus the economy’.
He said: ‘Can we get the younger age groups to shoulder the burden of economic activity while allowing the older age groups and vulnerable to shield effectively?
‘Only if the two cohorts don’t interact, so perhaps that’s where attention could be focused: on doing everything we can to protect those who are likely to suffer serious illness if they become infected. This will decrease the seriousness of the almost certain rise in case during the next few months.’
PHE data does not clarify the proportion of each age bracket that are tested for Covid-19, and so it is not clear if younger people are more likely to come forward to get a test than those who are older.
During the height of the pandemic, in March and April, testing was almost exclusively for older people.
For weeks it was only possible to get a test if the person was very unwell or in hospital – which would less likely be the case for young people.
Therefore the significantly higher case rate in the older generations compared to younger is not a completely fair comparison.
There would have been hundreds of thousands of people of younger generations who could not get a test, and therefore would not show in the data.
But ministers imply there is a true rise in transmission among younger people – and not just a concentration in testing there.
There has not been a rise in hospitalisations or deaths in the past few weeks, which further shows that older, vulnerable groups are not yet catching the disease more.
But there is concern that in time, cases among younger people will climb into those groups as families socialise together.
Dr Preston said: ‘I would say it is too early to tell what the outcome of this increase will be.
‘If it remains focused on cohorts who generally don’t suffer disease, or suffer only mild disease, then in theory it might not amount to a major problem.
‘However, the age group in which some of the increase is happening are the dangerous asymptomatic carriers.
‘This could mean we could build up high levels of infection without necessarily knowing about it, and there is the risk this could lead to a tipping point where it spills over into vulnerable populations and then we have a serious issue.’
He added: ‘The testing programme has become much more of a mix than it was at the height of the initial outbreak. It’s not clear what proportion of those being tested are symptomatic.’
Dr Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, warned of using young people as ‘scapegoats’.
He told MailOnline: ‘While data do indicate that infections are occurring mainly in a young age demographic, I know of no evidence to suggest that large numbers of younger people are breaking any rules and they shouldn’t be used as easy scapegoats.
‘It’s just as possible that the current control regulations are insufficient or inappropriate for the way younger people lead their lives.
‘Greater clarity is needed here before blame is laid or fingers pointed.’