COVID-19: Sharp Rise in Cases in Scotland, PM Calls for More 16 to 17-Year-Olds to Get a Jab

Peter Russell

September 03, 2021

Infection Survey

The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 remained stable in most of England but recorded a significant increase in Scotland, official data showed.

The main points from the Office for National Statistics were:

  • England: 1.41% of the community population tested positive for COVID

  • Scotland: The proportion was 1.32% of the population

  • Wales: The figure increased to 0.92%

  • Northern Ireland: The figure decreased to 1.56%

Sarah Crofts, head of analytical outputs for the COVID-19 Infection Survey, said: "Our results today show a mixed picture of infection rates across the UK.

"While rates are level overall in England, we are seeing a possible impact of the holiday season in the South West as infections are among their highest estimated rates. Meanwhile, however, infections have decreased in London and the East Midlands.

"In Scotland we are seeing our highest estimate of infections since we started collecting data last autumn with a notably sharp increase recorded in the week to 28 August."

She said the surveillance study was "critical to allow us to continue to monitor infection levels, especially as we move into winter months".

The latest analysis was based on 513,164 tests gathered from across the UK over the last 6 weeks.

Meanwhile, Public Health England (PHE) estimated that around 143,600 hospitalisations had been prevented in England up to August 22 in those aged 65 years and over as a result of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Approximately 36,100 admissions were prevented in those aged 65 to 74, 58,800 in those aged 75 to 84, and 48,700 in those aged 85 and over, according to PHE, which said there was "increasing evidence that vaccines prevent infection and transmission".

Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal, a consultant epidemiologist at PHE, said: "These figures show the vital role that vaccines play in preventing hospitalisations and in turn reducing the pressure on the NHS."

Teenage Vaccination Rates

Half of all teenagers in England aged 16 and 17 have had their first COVID-19 vaccination, new figures showed.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK needed to "go faster" in vaccinating people in this age group.

Sky News reported Mr Johnson saying young people were "a very important group for potential transmission", as he urged all those eligible to "go and get" a vaccine.

NHS England said that more than 620,000 young adults had received a vaccine dose.

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for NHS England's vaccination programme, said: "As school and college terms are due to start back shortly, it is really important that young people continue to come forward for their life-saving vaccine and visit the NHS Grab-a-jab finder to find a convenient site, with walk-in vaccinations taking place at nightclubs, university campuses, and places of worship this weekend."

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for 16 and 17-year-olds on August 4.

Children aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable to COVID, or who live with adults who are at increased risk of serious illness from SARS-C0V-2, are also being contacted by the NHS and invited for a vaccine.

Latest data from the ZOE COVID study suggested that new cases of the disease were rising rapidly in children and young people up to the age of 18.

It said there were currently 57,158 new daily symptomatic cases of COVID in the UK, up by 10% on the previous week.

On average, 1 in 90 people in the UK currently have symptomatic COVID, an analysis of its data showed.

It warned that the trend was likely to continue as schools in England reopen in the next few days.

Prof Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Study app, said: "The sharp increase in cases in Scotland following their return to school in August is a real concern, especially as children in England and Wales are now heading back.

"It’s likely that England and Wales will follow suit, helped by 'superspreader' festival events, making it ever more likely that the summer wave will continue into the autumn."

Vaccine Hesitancy

Distrust of COVID vaccines and of the Government were cited as among the main reason why younger people aged 16 to 29 were reluctant to receive a jab, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In August, ONS research found that people in this age group were the most hesitant to accept a vaccine, with 8% reporting vaccine hesitancy compared with 5% for those aged 30 to 49, and 2% for people over 50.

A small qualitative pilot study involving just 17 people in the younger age group suggested that vaccine hesitancy was linked to media influences, experiences of others having the vaccine, and opinions of those in close social networks.

The strongest theme around hesitancy was a general distrust of the vaccine, including concerns about side effects, particularly unknown long-term side effects, the ONS said.

A low perception of risk from COVID was also a factor, with younger people feeling they had less to fear from developing COVID than older people.

Some participants indicated that vaccine passports could encourage them to accept a vaccine, while others said it could discourage them from accepting one.

Vaccine Rates and Latest COVID Numbers

A total of 48,131,996 people in the UK have so far received a first dose of a COVID vaccine, and 43,023,372 a second dose.

The percentage of the population aged 16 or older who have had a first dose is 88.6%, while 79.2% have received a second dose up to and including September 1.

Official Government figures showed that during the previous week 777 people died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID, an increase of 0.9%.

Data up to September 2 showed that 236,152 people tested positive for COVID in the previous 7 day period, a decrease of 1% on the previous week.

There were 6529 hospital admissions due to COVID up until August 29, a rise of 5% on the previous period.

England's R number is 0.9 to 1.1. 

Antibodies

The ONS has published its latest estimate for the proportion of people in the UK with antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.

It showed that:

  • In England, 94.1% of the adult population would have tested positive for antibodies to the virus on a blood test in the week beginning August 9

  • In Wales, the figure was 92.0% of the adult population

  • In Northern Ireland, an estimated 90.4% of the adult population would have tested positive

  • In Scotland, it was estimated that 93.6% of the adult population would have tested positive for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2

Esther Sutherland, the senior statistician for the survey, commented: "Antibody positivity remains high across most adults, and the recent increases among younger people largely reflect higher vaccination rates among the under 35s.

"Rates remain high in the oldest age groups but we are starting to see a decline in positivity in these groups across some regions and countries."

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