More than 100 outbreaks of coronavirus are emerging in Britain every week, health secretary Matt Hancock has admitted.
Figures released last week suggest that new infections are on the rise in dozens of towns and cities across Britain.
Yet the Tories are pushing ahead with scrapping lockdown measures.
Hancock wrote in the Telegraph newspaper that many outbreaks are “swiftly and silently dealt with” without being reported in the news.
He concluded that measures targeting specific areas meant “we can lift more of the lockdown”.
In reality, the Tories’ reckless lifting of safety measures is putting more lives at risk.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the R number has gone up in England. This measures how many people someone with the virus will go on to infect, with the government stressing that it must stay below 1 to control the pandemic.
It is now between 0.8 and 1, up from between 0.8 and 0.9 the previous week.
Sage said the R number is most likely to have reached 1 in the north west of England. Public health officials issued a warning in Cumbria after a “small but concerning rise” in cases in Carlisle.
There were 18 new cases per 100,000 residents there in the week ending 3 July, compared with 8 the week before.
Public Health England data released last week showed that virus infections are rising in 43 English local authorities.
Leicester had the highest rate of virus infections in England, with 116 cases per 100,000 people. Rochdale had the second highest with 32, and Bradford was third with 31.8.
Data from the Covid Symptom Study, an app tracking people with symptoms of the virus across Britain, identified the Midlands and Wales as areas where infections remain high. Its figures suggested that cases stopped falling in the last week.
This follows a significant lifting of lockdown measures from 4 July, when pubs and restaurants reopened in England.
Epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector said, “It is disappointing that the number of daily new cases are no longer falling like they have been in previous weeks.
“This could be a temporary blip or due to the easing of lockdown and the amount of social contact increasing.”
Despite the figures, lockdowns eased further this week. Beauty salons, spas, nail bars and tattoo parlours reopened in England from Monday.
Non-essential shops inside shopping malls and dentists reopened in Scotland, and organised outdoor sports resumed. Pubs, bars and restaurants reopened across Wales.
Quarantine rules ended last week for people travelling to Britain from over 70 countries and British Overseas Territories.
It means people will no longer have to self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive.
The move came as Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus from the World Health Organisation warned that the virus is “accelerating” in many parts of the world.
Coming crisis will add to mental health problems
The virus and lockdown measures will create an “inevitable” rise in mental health problems.
Royal College of Psychiatrists president Dr Adrian James said NHS workers will need support, and those recovering from coronavirus may suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.
And after a decade of Tory cuts, he said waiting lists for treatment would rise significantly.
“There will be very significant mental illness consequences of Covid, and we need to be ready,” he said.
He said if illnesses are not treated early, they become more dangerous.
Many people have lost relatives and friends to the virus, but have been unable to have support due to the lockdown.
“People were told that somebody was going to die within 24 hours,” said James. “On some occasions they actually got to see their loved ones, but on other occasions they didn’t.”
Continuing physical problems for people recovering from the virus could also have an impact on mental health. And the “economic effects” just beginning will also have a “very powerful” effect.
“This is going to be a very challenging time with emerging signs that it’s people who were poor before Covid who are going to be affected even more,” he said.
James called for more investment in health workers and buildings.
“Mental health services have been traditionally underfunded so they weren’t in the most resilient place,” he added.
“We want to hold the government to account and say, when there are mental health consequences, they need to be funded so that people can get the service they need.”
Less reading and more stress
Boys have fallen behind in regular reading during the lockdown, a new study has found.
The report from the National Literacy Trust and Puffin said the gender gap in the numbers of children who say they enjoy reading has grown.
The report surveyed children aged between eight and 18. It found more girls have been reading daily and said they enjoyed reading.
The “reading enjoyment gap” between boys and girls has risen from just over 2 percent at the start of the year to 11.5 percent.
Young people are also suffering from stress and anxiety under the lockdown.
Dr Jane Morris is a consultant psychiatrist with the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland. She said,
“Their fears are not necessarily about the virus but may be financial or about employment.
“While in a long life a few months is very short, in a young person’s life it is a huge amount of their life and they feel robbed.”