Covid-19 infection rate appears to be slowing down – ONS
The rate of coronavirus infections across England and Wales appears to be slowing down, new data suggests.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said an estimated 618,700 people in England – one in 90 – had Covid-19 between October 25 and 31, up from 568,100 the week before.
But while the infection rate has increased in recent weeks, “the rate of increase is less steep compared with previous weeks”, the ONS said.
Ruth Studley, head of analysis for the Covid-19 infection survey, said: “At a national level we are seeing infections slow across England and Wales but they are still increasing.
“Within England, every region apart from the North East has shown increased levels of infection.
“The level of infection in young adults and older teenagers appears to have levelled off recently.
“However, they continue to be the most likely to be infected despite increases in all other age groups.”
When looking at new daily infections, the ONS said the rate across England appears to have “stabilised”.
There were an average of 45,700 new cases per day of Covid-19 in private homes between October 25 and 31, down from an estimated 51,900 new cases per day for the period from October 17 to 23.
This suggests the rate of new infections “appears to have stabilised in recent weeks at around 50,000 new infections per day”, the ONS said.
The figures do not include people staying in hospitals or care homes and are based on more than 689,000 swab tests gathered from across the UK in people with and without symptoms.
It comes as more than 64,000 deaths involving Covid-19 have now occurred in the UK, according to figures produced by statistical agencies.
Some 61,498 deaths have so far been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
A further 2,442 deaths are known to have occurred in England, plus 24 in Scotland, 163 in Wales and 43 in Northern Ireland, according to additional data published on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard.
Together, these totals mean that so far 64,170 deaths involving Covid-19 have taken place in the UK.
– England’s biggest hospital trust said its largest hospital has been forced to postpone all planned procedures due to a “significant” rise in very sick patients. The University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) said the Queen Elizabeth Hospital had seen a sharp rise in Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 emergency cases.
– Denmark has been taken off the UK’s coronavirus travel corridor list, meaning anyone arriving in the UK from Friday will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
– City-wide mass testing has got under way in Liverpool in the first pilot study of its kind. Everyone living or working in Liverpool – including children – will be offered repeat tests, whether or not they have symptoms.
Meanwhile, the Zoe Covid Symptom Study app, run by King’s College London, suggests there were 42,049 daily new symptomatic cases of Covid-19 in the UK on average over the two weeks up to November 1 (excluding care homes).
Researchers behind the study said the UK reproductive value – the R rate – is currently 1.0, and 1.0 in England.
Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s, said daily cases were falling in the north of England and Scotland, and cases overall were moving in the “right direction”.
He said they were a “positive sign that we have passed the peak of this second wave”, adding: “We urge everyone to respect the restrictions and help get the number of cases down as soon as possible to help the NHS, end the lockdown and get us in good shape for December.”
Earlier, James Naismith, professor of structural biology at Oxford University, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that NHS Test and Trace had made no difference to the spread of Covid-19.
Data shows the system reached just 59.9% of close contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus in the week ending October 28.
Prof Naismith said: “It hasn’t been effective at all. The only ways we are currently able to control infection spreading are social restrictions.
“Tracking and tracing hasn’t really made any difference to the spread of the epidemic.”
On Thursday, Boris Johnson insisted that four weeks of national lockdown should be enough to drive down the spread of coronavirus so severe restrictions can be eased.
As England was plunged into a second shutdown, the Prime Minister acknowledged many people were “anxious, weary and fed up” but continued to express optimism that science would succeed in finding a way out of the crisis.
“The number of shots that are currently raining down on the goal is very, very considerable from the scientists and the doctors, and one of them, I believe, is going to get to get through, and get through very soon,” he said.
By Mr Johnson’s side, NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens assured sceptics that the second wave of the pandemic “is real and serious”.
He said around 30,000 staff in the health service were either off with coronavirus or having to self-isolate, and “that has an impact”.