England’s Covid outbreak shrinks… AGAIN: ONS report shows total infections fell by a third to 248,000 last week while expert behind symptom-tracker app says lockdown could be eased earlier
- Covid Symptom Study estimates there are now 8,111 people developing Covid-19 every day in the UK
- This was down 15% from 9,545 last week after cases hung between 9,000-10,000 throughout February
- Study leader Professor Tim Spector said: ‘We are pleased to see numbers falling again’ but urged caution
- Office for National Statistics will today update its estimate of the total number of people carrying the virus
England’s coronavirus outbreak shrank by a third in just a single week at the end of February, results of a major surveillance study revealed today.
And separate data from a symptom-tracking app showed that the number of people getting infected each day is dropping again, after levelling off last month.
Combined, the two reports suggest around one in every 220 people is carrying the coronavirus in England, and that 6,595 are developing Covid symptoms each day. Both are down significantly on last week’s figures.
Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist behind the symptom app, revealed he hoped lockdown could be eased ‘earlier’, piling extra pressure on Boris Johnson to relax restrictions sooner. Under Number 10’s current roadmap back to normality, England won’t be freed from lockdown until June 21, at the earliest.
The findings add to data from Public Health England yesterday that showed positive tests for the virus are still tumbling in all regions, age groups and local authorities, with only two parts of the country seeing cases rise last week – Hull and Wokingham.
A separate mass-testing survey, REACT by Imperial College London, found that the shrinking of the outbreak has slowed dramatically since January but it is still getting smaller. Experts say the cold weather in February may have helped the virus spread and put the brakes on the shrinking epidemic.
The Office for National Statistics estimated that 248,000 people across England are infected with the coronavirus, down from 370,000 in its estimate last Friday
The number of people developing Covid symptoms each day, as estimated by the Covid Symptom Study, plateaued in February but has started to drop again in March
The Covid Symptom Study showed that infection rates are low in most areas of the country, with the Midlands and parts of the North of England appearing to be worst affected
Professor Spector said: ‘After reporting a flattening last week, possibly related to the cold snap, and with worries of new variants, we are pleased to see numbers falling again.
‘It’s even more encouraging when we look at the bigger picture. Cases in hospital and deaths continue to fall, and vaccinations rise, putting us in a good position.
‘However, we still need to keep numbers low and avoid further waves of infections.
‘Our app shows people are still getting infected within two weeks after vaccination when they have zero protection.
‘With schools opening, we still need to be sensible to keep the good news flowing as we slowly return to normal life and hopefully ease lockdown earlier.’
The Symptom Study said that 6,595 of the daily infections were happening in England, with 851 in Scotland, 395 in Wales and 270 in Northern Ireland.
Worst-affected in England is the North West region, it found, with around 1,133 new symptomatic cases per day, while the lowest rate was in the South West, with 434 per day.
The R rate, measuring the number of people infected by each person with the virus, is ‘close to 1’, the study said, with it at 0.9 in most places and 1.0 in others. An R of 1 means the outbreak is neither growing nor shrinking.
SAGE will publish an updated official estimate of the R rate later today. Last week it was thought to be somewhere between 0.6 and 0.9.
The ONS report estimated that the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus in England had declined from 0.69 per cent in the week to February 19, to 0.45 per cent last week.
All of the population is included in this estimate, whether they have symptoms or not, and it was calculated using the results of swab tests provided by more than 150,000 people dotted around the country.
This is considered a more reliable method than the Covid Symptom Study, which uses data on self-reported symptoms provided by its one million app users, but the ONS does not provide estimates of new daily cases.
The ONS said: ‘The percentage of people testing positive has decreased in all regions except for the North East, East Midlands and East of England where the trend is uncertain in the week ending 27 February 2021.
‘Caution should be taken in over-interpreting any small movements in the latest trend.’
Graphs showed that the rate of people testing positive is still coming down in all age groups, although less steeply among school children and the over-70s.
The Office for National Statistics report found that the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus fell significantly from 0.69 per cent to 0.45 per cent in the most recent week (ending February 27)
The Covid Symptom Study saw the numbers of people developing the illness flattened off in February, which it suggested was ‘possibly related to the cold snap’ but that case numbers are coming down again now
The ZOE and King’s College data back up a report from PHE yesterday that confirmed the numbers of cases being picked up by the official testing programme is still coming down.
It showed that positive tests done through NHS Test and Trace have now been falling in every region and age group for seven weeks in a row.
The weekly report showed cases are in free-fall across the country and only two out of 149 local authorities recorded an increase last week – Hull and Wokingham.
PHE’s report found that there was a decline in cases in almost all counties and districts in the most recent week, to February 28, with three areas seeing their infection numbers drop by half – Torbay in Devon, Rutland in the East Midlands, and the Isle of Wight.
And all age groups saw the case numbers come down again, for the seventh week in a row with consistent declines since the second week of January, tumbling from staggering heights at the end of 2020.
Regionally, infections are down consistently again, too, with the lowest rates in the South East and South West, as well as in London and the East of England.
Cases are around twice as high in the northern and Midlands regions but are still declining, the report showed.
All major measures of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK – done by the Office for National Statistics (yellow), the Imperial College London REACT study (solid blue line) and the Covid Symptom Study (pink lines and dotted blue) – show that the outbreak shrank dramatically during January and then plateaued in February as cases got to low levels
Cases are down in all age groups but flattening off, the Covid Symptom Study showed
Public Health England data show that coronavirus positive test rates fell in all but two areas of the country in the week ending February 28 – Hull in Yorkshire and Wokingham in Berkshire (shown in yellow)
Published at Fri, 05 Mar 2021 13:12:44 +0000-
Coronavirus UK: Covid cases are falling again after flat February, study finds