Daily coronavirus cases have risen in the UK again and the number of patients being admitted to hospital with the virus has started to nudge up once more — but deaths are down.
The Department of Health recorded 40,701 infections across the country over the past 24 hours, up nearly 12 per cent on last week. It's the first time in a month that cases have risen above 40,000 in a single day.
There were another 122 Covid deaths registered today in an 11 per cent drop on the figure last Thursday. It's the 11th day in a row that fatalities have fallen week-on-week.
Latest hospital data also shows there were 681 Covid admissions on October 3, a small 4 per cent rise compared to the number the previous week.
Both death and hospital numbers lag a few weeks behind cases due to the time it takes for infection to turn into serious illness.
Yesterday saw a week-long spell of falling cases come to an end, with the trajectory of the epidemic becoming increasingly harder to predict.
Separate data from the country's largest symptom-tracking study today suggested that the number of Britons falling ill with Covid every day has jumped to the highest level since January.
King's College London scientists estimated 66,033 people were getting infected daily in the week ending October 2, up 13.6 per cent from 58,126 the week before.
Cases in children appear to be turning a corner but are still extremely high, with around one in 30 school pupils contracting the virus — nearly three times more than the next highest rate in 35 to 55-year-olds.
Professor Tim Spector, the epidemiologist who leads the study, argued allowing Covid to 'run rampant' in schools was 'a real gamble'. He said he hoped that 'herd immunity will kick in and cases will drop' in children soon.
Face masks could be brought back in schools to stem the spread of the coronavirus this winter, the Education Secretary admitted today.
Guidance saying all children should wear coverings in classrooms and corridors was dropped in mid-May as part of No10's drive to learn to live with the virus.
But ministers have made contingency plans in the event of a rapid surge in cases among pupils.
Nadhim Zahawi defended the potential measures, which includes coverings, increased pupil and staff testing and shielding vulnerable pupils.
He insisted his priority was to 'protect education' and keep schools open.
Meanwhile, Mr Zahawi also said he doesn't want to bring back bubbles, which saw entire classes and year groups sent home if one child tested positive.
Original coronavirus-fighting measures deployed in English schools contributed to 1.1million children being stuck at home during the most disruptive days of the Covid pandemic.
Ministers said dropping face masks would improve interactions between teachers and pupils, while ending bubbles would ease disruptions to education.
It came as new Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi admitted that face masks could make a return in schools this winter if cases show no sign of slowing down.
The ZOE Covid Study figures are based on data from 44,958 recent swab tests done between September 18 and October 2. The app has nearly 750,000 weekly contributors in total.
It estimated that around 30,000 children under the age of 18 caught the virus each day on average last week, which was down slightly on the previous seven days. The data suggests cases might have peaked in the age group.
The study said around 14,000 adults aged 35 to 55-year-olds were contracting Covid every day at the start of the month, a number which has been rising since the middle of September, after the start of the new school term.
Cases were low and stable in people over the age of 50, at just over 4,000.
It is estimated one in 30 children aged between 10 and 19 currently have Covid. Out of the four home nations, only Scotland is seeing a national fall in cases.
Professor Spector said: 'While Covid may be less severe in children, allowing Covid to run rampant among them is a real gamble.
'With more than one in 30 older school-children now infected and as we predicted numbers rising, many will not escape long-term symptoms.
'These are the highest rates since January 2021. Without vaccination or restrictions in this group, we can only hope that some kind of herd