Only one in every 370 people in England now has coronavirus, official statistics show as the outbreak shrank nine per cent last week to a total of 148,100 infections and a study estimates there are 2,800 new cases per day.
The Office for National Statistics’ weekly report said 0.27 per cent of the population is now carrying the virus, the lowest number since September and a fall from 0.3 per cent last week, when it rose slightly.
And estimates of daily infections saw the number of people developing symptoms shrink by 12.5 per cent last week and experts said reopening schools had a ‘very small’ impact on the spread of the virus.
The Covid Symptom Study app estimated there were 2,839 daily symptomatic infections in the seven days to March 27, down from the 3,245 predicted last week. Across the UK it estimated there were 4,152 daily cases.
Professor Tim Spector, the King’s College London epidemiologist who leads the project, sounded a positive note saying the results suggested the country was in a ‘good position’ as it began to ease lockdown restrictions.
‘Last week we reported that cases in children had increased, but this has now reversed with cases falling, suggesting any impact of schools opening was very small,’ he said. ‘And even more positive news, is that cases in the over-60s have been consistently dropping for weeks.
‘The data shows we’re in a good position as we begin to resume life outside of lockdown and the effect of the vaccine programme should keep numbers low.’
Separate Test and Trace figures today revealed the number of people being diagnosed with Covid in England fell by 2 per cent last week with 36,606 cases — the lowest rate since September.
And a Public Health England report showed that positive tests are still coming down in all adult age groups, although there was a small rise among secondary school children. It also revealed that infection rates rose in around one in four parts of the country in the most recent week.
The Covid Symptom Study shows that infection rates are still coming down in all adult age groups, although they appear relatively flat in school-age children (blue line)
Test and Trace data today showed a total of 36,606 people tested positive for Covid in England at least once in the week to March 24. For comparison, the figure for the previous seven-day spell was 37,289
PHE data showed that a quarter of council authorities in England – or 41 out of 149 – saw a rise in Covid cases last week, with the upticks likely being driven by school children
EVEN THE GLOOMIEST EXPERTS SAY DAILY COVID DEATHS SHOULD CONTINUE TO DROP
Cambridge University academics whose gloomy warnings of 4,000 deaths a day spooked ministers into imposing England’s second lockdown say daily fatalities will continue to drop when more restrictions are eased.
The ‘Nowcast’ team, which feeds into No10’s advisory panel SAGE, estimates Covid deaths could fall as low as 35 a day by April 16, based on current trends.
England is set to hit the second stage of Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown on April 12, with hairdressers and gyms set to reopen and bars, pubs, and cafes allowed to serve customers outdoors.
The Prime Minister has warned the plan could be derailed by a spike in Covid cases or the emergence of a new variant that may dodge vaccine-sparked immunity.
But the latest catalogue of data is promising, and shows cases are still falling in England and three quarters of all age groups despite schools reopening.
Experts said the numbers suggested England was in a ‘good position’ as it prepared to ease more measures.
Writing in their latest report, the Cambridge scientists said: ‘We predict that the number of deaths occurring daily is likely to remain low with a forecast for the period around April 16 suggesting that there will be fewer than 175 deaths per day and potentially as few as 35 deaths per day.’
They also suggested there were around 12,900 new infections occurring daily across England, with rates being highest in the East Midlands, North West and West Midlands.
In an upbeat tone head modeller Professor Daniela De Angelis said: ‘The pandemic has been shrinking in England as a consequence of the January lockdown and signs of the impact of immunisation on the risk of mortality are becoming apparent.’
But she added there are also signs that cases are now ticking up in some regions which will need to be carefully monitored.
The ONS’s report is based on test results from 144,000 random members of the population which are then scaled up to the whole country.
It found that infection rates were Yorkshire, the North East and the North West, at 0.4 per cent, and lowest in the South East and South West at 0.1 per cent.
The rate was 0.3 per cent – three in a thousand – in the East and West Midlands and in London, and 0.2 per cent in the East of England.
Of the devolved nations, Wales has the lowest infection rate (0.18 per cent) and Northern Ireland the highest (0.45 per cent), while it was 0.32 per cent in Scotland.
The Covid Symptom Study app, published early ahead of Good Friday, bases its estimates on reports from more than a million Britons on whether they are feeling unwell, what symptoms they are suffering, and if they have tested positive for the virus.
But it can only detect symptomatic infections – which trigger warning signs of the virus – and not asymptomatic cases thought to make up about a third of the total infections across the country.
Covid cases fell in all age groups last week except schoolchildren aged up to 19 years old, according to the app, where they remained steady.
WHAT DID THE DATA REVEAL TODAY?
There are several data reports tracking the spread of Covid in the UK published every week.
Office for National Statistics
The ONS report, based on random swab testing of around 144,000 people, showed the total number of people with coronavirus fell last week.
The report suggested 0.27 per cent of people in England had the virus at a time in the week ending March 27 – around 148,100 people, or one in every 370.
This was down nine per cent from 162,500 a week earlier, which had been a slight rise from the week before that.
Public Health England
Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report showed that positive tests were down in all regions and all adult age groups.
They rose in 10 to 19-year-olds, believed to be driven by schools reopening, and in 41 out of 149 council authorities across the country, many in London and the South East.
Covid Symptom Study
This app estimated Covid cases fell by 13 per cent last week, to 2,839 daily symptomatic infections.
Its figures are based on reports from more than a million Britons who tell the app whether they are feeling unwell, what symptoms they are suffering and if they have tested positive for the virus.
Test and Trace
Covid cases fell by two per cent last week, according to its weekly official report.
Test and Trace said there were 3,606 cases in the week to March 24, down from 37,289 the week before.
Public Health England’s data, taken from the official swab testing system, backed this up and showed that infection rates fell in all age groups except 10 to 19-year-olds where they rose by seven per cent to 109.8 cases per 100,000 people.
Over-70s – who are most at risk of becoming ill if they catch the virus – still had the lowest infection rate (10.7 per 100,000). Everyone in this group has now been offered a Covid vaccine by the NHS.
The Covid Symptom Study also found that cases dropped in seven of England’s nine regions – with only the South East and London estimated to have seen slight increases. This was at odds with PHE, which saw them come down in every area.
The highest number of daily symptomatic cases, the Symptom Study found, were in London and the West Midlands (510 each), estimates suggest, followed by the East Midlands (369), Yorkshire and the Humber (346) and the South East (303).
Professor Spector added: ‘As cases decline again, we’re seeing regional divides widen to a three-fold difference, a familiar trend we saw last summer when cases were similarly low.’
PHE data showed that a quarter of local authorities in England – or 41 out of 149 – saw a rise in Covid cases last week, Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report revealed today, with the upticks being driven by school children.
Figures showed infection rates fell in all age groups except 10 to 19-year-olds where they rose by seven per cent to 109.8 cases per 100,000 people. Over-70s – who are most at risk of becoming ill if they catch the virus – still had the lowest infection rate (10.7 per 100,000). Everyone in this group has been offered a Covid vaccine.
The council areas recording rising infection rates were mostly based in London, where nine boroughs saw an increase including Bexley where they doubled, and the South East with eight councils recording more cases than previously including the Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire and Windsor and Maidenhead.
But pockets of growing infections were scattered across England including five areas in the South West – Devon, Cornwall, and Plymouth among others – and four in the North West – Trafford, Oldham and Central Manchester.
This was in line with the Covid Symptom Study app estimates which suggested cases were already increasing in London and the South East last week, although the rise was only among school children.
Test and Trace data today showed England’s outbreak shrunk by two per cent in the week to March 24 after 36,606 people tested positive for Covid. For comparison, the figure for the previous seven-day spell was 37,289.
Some 7.1million lateral flow tests for Covid were also done last week, down from 7.7million in the previous week, as schools were asked to test pupils twice a week to root out any cases of the virus.
PHE’s data showed 10 to 19-year-olds had the highest Covid infection rate in England last week at 109.8 cases per 100,000. This was up from the 102.3 recorded the week before.
All pupils were invited back to schools on March 8 with twice weekly testing in place to ensure any outbreaks were snuffed out quickly. Experts say the escalated testing regime could have led to more asymptomatic infections – which cause no symptoms – being picked up that would previously have gone unreported.
Over-30s had the second-highest infection rate (71.6), but this was down 12 per cent on the previous week (81.2), and over-40s had the third highest (61.2), also down 15 per cent on the week before (15 per cent).
The lowest infection rate was among the over-70s, who have all been offered at least one dose of the vaccine, followed by the over-60s (20.1), who have also all been offered a first dose.
Test and Trace figures also showed there were 30,779 people transferred to the contact tracing system, of whom 91.4 per cent were reached and asked to provide details of close contacts – people they had been near for more than 15 minutes.
The UK’s successful vaccine rollout means it is now in the best position of all major European nations, despite being the worst hit in January.
The weekly infection rate in France — where intensive care units are overwhelmed — is around eight times higher than in the UK.
President Emmanuel Macron last night blamed the so-called ‘British variant’ for the country’s surge in cases, saying it created ‘a pandemic inside a pandemic’ as France heads into its third national lockdown from Saturday.
There are mixed pictures across different regions of England, which Professor Spector said ‘we saw last summer when cases were similarly low’