Experts have warned the Government’s daily figures on coronavirus infections must improve in order to identify clear trends, as the UK sees the highest daily figure for cases since the outbreak began.
As of 9am on Tuesday, there had been a further 7,143 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, the biggest rise since the start of the pandemic.
Experts have previously warned that describing the daily figure as a record could be “misleading” as it is not clear how many people were actually infected during the height of the first wave due to a lack of community testing at the time.
The number of new UK cases reported daily is not a real-time snapshot – instead, it is the number of new positive cases reported in the past 24 hours, which includes people who tested positive days or even weeks ago.
James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and professor at the University of Oxford, said it was “disappointing in the extreme” that real-time data for positive tests in the UK have “become very noisy”, making it difficult to identify clear trends.
Prof Naismith said there were fewer problems in measuring and reporting hospital admissions, adding: “The pattern here suggests a doubling time of around two weeks, something similar is seen by looking at the number of patients on ventilators.”
He said the spread of the virus has accelerated this month, and that he shared “widespread frustration” in the two-week lag in monitoring the effectiveness of recent restrictions.
“Unless the data quality improves, it could require up to two weeks of such daily figures to be certain of the success or otherwise of current restriction measures,” he added.
“It is my fervent hope that this time round we will avoid judging the virus by counting the number of tragedies.”
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said it is important to look at data over the period of a week as opposed to a single day to determine trends.
“The world has now passed the grim milestone of a million Covid-19 deaths and we are likely to see increasing hospitalisations and deaths,” he said.
The Government said a further 71 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday.
This brings the UK total to 42,072.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been nearly 57,900 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.