England’s coronavirus outbreak has slowed in the first full week of the second national shutdown and the R rate across the UK could be as low as 1, official data shows hope for a Christmas without locking.
Data from the Bureau of National Statistics released this afternoon showed daily infections fell from 47,700 to 38,900 between November 8 and 14, an 18% drop. The ONS said the rate of new infections “appears to have stabilized over the past week.”
Meanwhile, the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said the ‘R’ reproduction rate – the average number of people to whom each Covid-19 patient transmits the disease – had dropped slightly to a maximum of 1.1 against a maximum of 1.2.
Modeling by the group estimates that the R is now between 1.0 and 1.1, which means that on average every 10 Britons with Covid will infect between 10 and 11 more. They estimated it was between 1.0 and 1.2 last week.
The ONS, however, has warned that while cases continue to occur in the north of the worst-affected country, where many areas were in local level 3 lockdowns before national measures, they continue to rise in the country. south and east. Overall cases remain higher in the North but the total number is no longer increasing.
This week’s report estimates a total of 664,700 people across England were infected with coronavirus last week, which is more than at any time since the ONS launched its program. The results are based on mass swab testing of a random portion of the population.
In the past fortnight, which produced the data used in today’s report, 198,932 tests were performed and 2,046 people tested positive in 2,257 tests. The adjusted infection rates suggest that one in 80 people currently carry the virus.
Promising figures from the ONS seem to suggest that the Level 3 local lockdown rules and, later, the national shutdown, are successfully slowing the spread of the virus. Experts from the statistical agency said: “The rate of increase [in positive tests] in England has slowed down in recent weeks ”.
It comes as scientific advisers to the SAGE government are set to release an updated estimate of the UK’s R rate today, which tells us how many people, on average, are infected by each individual with the coronavirus. If the rate is estimated to be 1.0 or less, it will mean that the epidemic has stopped growing – last week it was thought to be between 1.0 and 1.2, up from 1.1 to 1, 3 the previous week.
The positive tests recorded by the Ministry of Health have also stopped increasing, the number of positive cases announced each day decreasing for six consecutive days between last Thursday and this Wednesday before a slight increase yesterday. The daily average fell for three consecutive days to 23,294.
Today’s data from November 8-14 suggests the overall national infection rate for England is similar to the week before, but there are marked regional divisions, with rates rising again in children of primary school age.
The ONS said: “Over the past week infection rates have continued to rise in London, the east of England and the south-east, but the rates now appear to be declining in the northwest and the East Midlands.
“The highest Covid-19 infection rates remain in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.
Katherine Kent, Co-Director of Analysis for the Covid-19 Infections Investigation, said: “There are early signs that the national level of infections in England could stabilize, but this hides a lot of variation in the level regional.
‘While the highest infection levels remain in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber, rates are now declining in the North West and East Midlands while increasing in London, East. England and the South East.
“The further increases appear to be due to infections among young people, with increasing levels among children of primary school age.
“Elsewhere in the UK, we are seeing a similar picture with an increase in infections throughout October, which is now declining in Wales and Northern Ireland and leveling off in Scotland.
Meanwhile, data from the Covid Symptom Study app, run by King’s College London and health technology company ZOE, suggests the UK breeding count – the R value – is around 1.
The R represents the average number of people infected by a person with Covid-19. The ZOE app team put the R in England at 1.0 and at 0.9 in Wales and Scotland.
But he said that “worryingly, the east of England and in particular the Midlands are both seeing increasing numbers with R values of 1.1 and 1 respectively”.
Meanwhile, the North West and North East and Yorkshire both have R-values of 0.9 as cases decline.
In the south-east, London and the south-west, cases are not decreasing, researchers say, and the R is 1.
Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, said: “The reason we are now seeing an overall R-value of 1 in England is that the numbers are decreasing in the north, increasing in the Midlands and in the East but remain stable in the south. from England.
“The continued increase in the Midlands, despite the nationwide lockdown, is concerning.
“This suggests that an approach focused on better compliance at the regional, not national level, over a longer period of time is the best way forward.
“We need to keep cases low enough that we can function as a nation until vaccines arrive without further harmful lockdowns.
ONS said the highest infection rates are in high school-age children, older adolescents and young adults, and rates continue to rise in primary school-age children .
Meanwhile, infection rates appear to be stabilizing in people aged 25 and older.
It was children, teens and college students who triggered the second wave of coronavirus at the end of the summer. While they are much less likely to die from severe Covid-19 than adults, infections among them must still be taken very seriously.
When modeling the level of infection among different age groups, the ONS said that the rates in high school-aged children (school years 7-11) now appear to be increasing again, while the rates in young adults (school year 12 to 24) seem to show the first signs of stabilization.
These two age groups continue to have the highest estimated infection rates.
Rates continue to rise among children of primary school age (school years 2-6), but “appear to be leveling off” among those aged 25 and older, the ONS added.