Around half of the positive coronavirus cases in the UK are not being identified, according to a pandemics expert.
Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said these cases mean attempts to control the virus are being done “with one hand behind our back”.
Mr Woolhouse sits on a sub-group of SAGE and is a member of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 advisory group.
He said the mass testing scheme which began in Liverpool is an attempt combat the problem.
From Friday anyone in the city can be tested – repeatedly – for coronavirus regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Speaking on the BBC Scotland’s Seven Days programme, Prof Woolhouse said: “The problem that testing pilot scheme in Liverpool is trying to solve is that we’re still not finding about half of the Covid cases in Scotland or in the UK more generally.
“That’s a very high proportion.”
He added: “It’s probably partly because many of them are asymptomatic or so mildly infected they don’t recognise the symptoms, partly because people do have symptoms but actually genuinely aren’t recognising them as Covid – I’ve heard a few cases of that in the last week – and also the possibility that some people are having symptoms and actually ignoring them, perhaps because they don’t want to go into self-isolation.
“Whatever the reason, those missed 50% of cases – it’s like trying to control the epidemic with one hand tied behind our back. We can’t do it effectively if those cases are not also being self isolated and their contacts traced. It’s going to make it much more difficult.
“The idea of Liverpool is to try and find these cases and hopefully … persuade them to self-isolate.”
Just over 65,000 deaths involving Covid-19 have now occurred in the UK, according to the latest available figures.
A total of 61,498 deaths have so far been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, according to reports published last week by the Office for National Statistics, the National Records of Scotland, and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.
This breaks down as 55,796 deaths in England and Wales up to October 23 (and registered by October 31); 4,649 deaths in Scotland registered up to November 1; and 1,053 deaths in Northern Ireland up to October 30 (and registered by November 4).
But since these figures were compiled, a further 3,526 deaths are known to have occurred in the UK, according to additional data published on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard.
The Government’s preferred measure of the official death toll, which counts only those people who died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, currently stands at 49,044.
This particular measure is likely to pass 50,000 later this week.
50 million mark
The coronavirus has hit another sobering milestone, with more than 50 million positive cases worldwide since the pandemic began.
Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker reported more than 50.2 million Covid-19 cases globally as of Sunday.
More than 1.2 million people have died from the disease worldwide.
The US, with around 4% of the world’s population, represents almost a fifth of all reported cases.
The country has had more than 9.8 million cases and more than 237,000 deaths from the virus since the pandemic started, according to Johns Hopkins data.
Coronavirus cases and deaths also continue to soar in the US, as they are in many countries.
The US reported more than 126,000 positive cases and more than 1,000 deaths from Covid-19 on Saturday, according to the university.
It marked the fourth day in a row that new cases topped more than 100,000, as the country continued to break its own record for daily cases on nearly every day last week.