The Government’s scientific advisers believe the rate of coronavirus transmission has not breached the crucial value of one, despite evidence it is very close in some regions.
They acknowledged there might be some places in England where the ‘R value’ is close to one, which if exceeded could see the virus spread exponentially.
The Government’s value remained between 0.7 and 0.9 for the UK as a whole, though the figure has a two to three week lag, meaning it does not account for the latest easing of the lockdown.
And a report from Public Health England and Cambridge University, which estimates what the value is currently, said R is close to one in the North West and South West.
The research warned that there is some evidence the value has risen in all regions, saying it was probably due to increasing mobility and mixing between households and in public and work settings.
Undiagnosed Covid-19 is a “likely explanation” for some of the excess deaths not linked to coronavirus of elderly people with other health conditions in England and Wales, analysis suggests.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and symptoms mainly indicating old age account for two thirds of the total number of non-Covid-19 excess deaths in England and Wales from March 7 to May 1, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
There were 5,404 more deaths than expected due to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – a rise of 52% compared with the average number of deaths for this period over five years.
And 1,567 excess deaths occurred due to “symptoms signs and ill-defined conditions” – a 77.8% rise from the five-year average.
The ONS said it was “implausible” that the sharp rise in deaths linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease could have happened by chance.
Undiagnosed Covid-19 could “help explain the rise” in the deaths of frail elderly people with underlying conditions, particularly women and those in care homes, the ONS added.
While there is no reason to believe that Covid-19 was knowingly omitted from death registrations, it is possible that symptoms were not apparent or the virus was mistaken for an illness with similar symptoms.
It said: “The absence of large rises in deaths due to this cause that mention conditions that could exhibit similar symptoms to Covid-19 suggests that if Covid-19 is involved in the increase in deaths due to dementia and Alzheimer disease, the usual symptoms of Covid-19 were not apparent.
“This could fit with recent clinical observations, where atypical hypoxia has been observed in some Covid-19 patients.
“In someone with advanced dementia and Alzheimer disease, the symptoms of Covid-19 might be difficult to distinguish from their underlying illness, especially with the possibility of communication difficulties.
“Care home residents have experienced changes to their usual routine as a result of measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Adverse effects of such changes cannot be discounted as another possible explanation of the increase in the number of deaths in care homes.”