England virus cases 'about 50,000 a day'

Alistair Smout and Andy Bruce
·2-min read

New COVID-19 infections in England have stabilised at about 50,000 a day, the Office for National Statistics says, indicating a levelling-off in the steep rise of cases even before England was pushed into a second lockdown.

The ONS said there were an estimated 45,700 new cases per day in the week to October 31, down slightly from the previous week's estimate of 51,900.

"Incidence appears to have stabilised at around 50,000 new infections per day," the ONS said in its weekly infection survey.

"The infection rate has increased in recent weeks but the rate of increase is less steep compared with previous weeks."

An estimated 618,700 people had the disease during the most recent week, up from 568,100 the previous week.

That equates to an estimated 1 in 90 people, an increase in prevalence from 1 in 100 people the week before.

The ONS looks to estimate infection numbers in the community beyond those who have been tested, giving an estimate of prevalence that is unaffected by testing capacity.

The infection survey concluded there had been increases in positivity everywhere apart from the northeast, parts of which had been under some of the strictest local lockdown measures, before the new England-wide lockdown came in on Thursday.

Experts said the infection survey was evidence the pandemic was slowing or even in decline but that more data was needed to confirm the trend.

"Should next week's data show a similar stabilisation or reduction, then we can be confident that the second wave has for now stabilised," Oxford University Professor James Naismith said.

Government scientists said the reproduction "R" number was unchanged at between 1.1-1.3 and that they were confident that the epidemic had continued to grow in recent weeks.

"Although there is some evidence that the rate of growth in some parts of the country may be slowing, levels of disease are very high in these areas," the Government Office for Science said.

"Significant levels of healthcare demand and mortality will persist until 'R' is reduced to and remains well below 1 for an extended period of time."