COVID infection rates slowing down and have 'levelled off' in some regions

·3-min read
Katie Ffolloitt-Powell of the Patient Transport Services of South Central Ambulance Services speaks to an elderly non-COVID-19 patient as she is moved from hospital to a care home, in Portsmouth, Britain May 5, 2020. Picture taken May 5, 2020. Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS
Many hospitals are reaching capacity as the spread of coronavirus through the UK continues (Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS)

An estimated 654,000 people in private households in England had COVID-19 between October 31 and November 6, the ONS has said.

The figures represent a jump from 618,700 people the previous week, with the ONS saying that while the infection rate has increased in recent weeks, “the rate of increase is slower than previous weeks”.

The survey, which tests thousands of people in English homes whether they have symptoms or not, also found an estimated there were around 47,700 new cases per day during this period. This equates to around one in every 85 people.

While the data shows another rise in the number of infections in England, Scotland and Wales, the growth rate of infections appears to be slowing. In Northern Ireland it is believed the rate may have levelled off.

Assistant manager Claire Welford administers a coronavirus swab test on staff member Colin Scarr at the Eothen Homes care home in Whitley Bay, Tyneside, where all staff and residents are being tested for coronavirus. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
The ONS conducts the research in association with University of Oxford infection experts (Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)

A statement from ONS said that in England positivity has increased in the South East, South West, East Midlands and the North East in the past week, whereas some other regions appear to have levelled off. The highest COVID-19 infection rates remain in the North West, and Yorkshire and The Humber.

It said: “The highest positivity rates are seen in secondary school-aged children, older teenagers and young adults; rates continue to increase in those aged 35 years and above, and rates are now decreasing in older teenagers and young adults, with rates appearing to have levelled off among younger children, teenagers and those aged 25 to 34 years.”

The UK’s rate of infection is currently between 1 to 1.2 and the virus is still spreading at an ‘epidemic’ speed according to the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

Watch: Coronavirus in numbers - UK deaths rise above 50,000

On Thursday the UK reported its highest ever amount of new infections - 33,470 - bringing the total number of cases in the UK to 1,290,195.

Ministers have insisted that the rise in numbers is partly a result of mass testing facilities being rolled out across the country.

And Boris Johnson has warned that while mass testing and progress on vaccines are both “vital arrows in our epidemiological quiver”, they are no substitute for the current national lockdown restrictions.

“Irrespective of whether there is a vaccine on the way or not,” he said, “we must continue to do everything possible right now to bring the R down, and that's why we hope and believe that mass testing will help.

A city-wide testing programme was underway in Liverpool this week, using lateral flow tests which promise results within 15 minutes, and Johnson has said that hundreds of thousands of the fast-turnaround swab tests are being sent to local authorities across England.

A blackboard is pictured at the entrance of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing centre in Liverpool, Britain November 11, 2020. REUTERS/Carl Recine
A city-wide coronavirus testing programme is underway in Liverpool, supported by the military (REUTERS/Carl Recine)

The news came at the end of a week that saw the UK pass the grim milestone of more than 50,000 deaths from COVID-19.

Responding to the data on deaths, Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, had said: “Sadly the upward trend is likely to continue and it will be several weeks before any impact of the current measures – and the sacrifices we are all making – is seen and is reflected in the data.

“By limiting contact with others, you are helping to stop the spread of the virus. This will lead to fewer infections and help to save lives. Together we can bring the virus under control.”

As the ONS research is a household survey, the figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings. In these settings, rates of COVID-19 infection are likely to be different.

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