Loosening lockdown did not lead to increase in West London coronavirus cases, figures show


By Owen Sheppard, local democracy reporterThree West London boroughs have seen only slight increases in the number of coronavirus cases recorded since the start of July, despite the easing of the lockdown.

The boroughs of Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham have seen percentage increases of 3.3, 2.3 and 1.6 respectively since July 2.

As of Thursday, Westminster had 895 confirmed cases. Kensington and Chelsea, with a much smaller population, had 572 cases, and Hammersmith and Fulham had 767.

This suggests that Londoners have succeeded in containing the spread of the virus by taking precautions such as wearing masks, social distancing and working from home to keep transmission levels low.

July 2 was an important date because it was the first time the government had started releasing a full picture of all the positive tests that had taken place across the country.

Until July 1, the government website coronavirus.data.gov.uk only showed so-called ‘pillar 1’ data, which refers to tests performed in hospitals, nursing homes and GP practices.

But as of July 2, official figures also included tests carried out “in the community,” or “pillar 2,” which refers to tests carried out at drive-in centers or mailed to individual households.

This meant that every borough in the country saw a small spike in cases between those two dates.

The figures for July look encouraging. But Dr Nim Pathy, an expert in mathematical epidemiology at Imperial College London, explained that the number of reported cases would likely be much lower than the actual number of people who have had the virus.

He said: “The majority of reported cases are only a fraction of the number of cases in the community.

“It helps to think about, as an individual, what needs to happen before being a part of these official issues.

“You must be infected and develop symptoms. Then you have to be tough enough to get tested, and eventually that test should be positive.

“A lot of people don’t develop symptoms, and there are also a lot of very mild infections. It will appear that they have the sniffles and they will not go to a GP or hospital for a test.

“This whole chain of events has to happen for you to be a part of these official numbers. ”

In April, the British medical journal published a study which suggests that 78% of Covid-19 carriers do not have symptoms, although studies have varied.

Dr Pathy added: ‘In the UK we are in a good position because someone who comes to hospital and needs an exam is likely to have one. Everything about UK testing is pretty robust. ”

Tracking the number of cases in the three boroughs, there were also times when the running total of cases dropped overnight.

This happens when Public Health England corrects a duplication of the number of positive cases.

Duplications happen accidentally when a person is tested twice, which can happen because there are two types of tests.

Serological tests detect whether someone has been infected with the virus in the past, and PCR swab tests can determine if someone is currently carrying the virus.

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