Hints UK virus outbreak levelling off

Pan Pylas
·2-min read

Some tentative signs have emerged to suggest that the UK's coronavirus resurgence is levelling off after wide-ranging restrictions were imposed.

In its weekly survey of new infections, the country's statistics agency said the rate of growth of the virus in England appeared to be slowing around the time a new four-week lockdown took effect on November 5.

And the UK government's main scientific advisory group said the virus' reproduction rate dipped even before the latest lockdown.

At first glance, both indicators appear to run counter to the near 50 per cent rise in the number of new infections to 33,470 that was recorded on Thursday.

The record daily increase stoked fears about the current outbreak, though some experts said it could be due to the new city-wide testing program taking place in hard-hit Liverpool.

Like other places in Europe, the four parts of the UK have reimposed restrictions over recent weeks to get on top of the virus' resurgence.

With new infections rising, the number of COVID-19 patients being hospitalised has increased sharply and so have deaths.

On Thursday, the UK recorded another 563 virus-related deaths, taking the total to about 51,000, the highest in Europe.

In England, authorities imposed local restrictions on areas with the highest number of new cases, before the government changed tack and announced a general lockdown.

Scientists said Friday's evidence suggested that the local measures were having an impact in suppressing the virus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has voiced hope that the lockdown will bring the reproduction rate of the virus below 1, which would mean the epidemic is shrinking.

On Friday, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies or Sage said the rate had dropped to between 1 and 1.2 across the UK.

For the past few weeks, Sage has put the R at between 1.1 and 1.3.

The weekly infection survey from the Office for National Statistics also pointed to an easing in the rate of growth of the virus.

It said an estimated 654,000 people in private households in England had COVID-19 between October 31 and November 6, or about 1.2 per cent of the population.

Though the figures represent a jump from 618,700 people, or 1.1 per cent of the population in the period October 25-31, the agency said "the rate of increase is slower than previous weeks".