Number of COVID infections could be declining overall, expert suggests

Victoria Bell
·5-min read
IMAGE PIXELATED BY PA PICTURE DESK Paramedics transport a patient outside the Royal London Hospital in London. A "major incident" was declared by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan last week warning that the spread of coronavirus threatens to "overwhelm" the capital's hospitals.
Paramedics transport a patient outside the Royal London Hospital in London. (PA)

The number of coronavirus infections in the UK could be declining overall, according to a health expert behind the world’s largest ongoing study of COVID-19.

The King’s College London Zoe app found there were 61,813 daily new cases of COVID-19 in the UK on the 7 January, down from a peak of around 70,000 at the beginning of January.

Evidence from the app, where users update their symptoms daily and say whether they have been tested in order to paint a clear picture of how COVID is spreading, suggests there were over 839,603 current symptomatic cases of COVID-19 in the UK in the same period.

Researchers behind the study said that the trend is still up in the over-60s, which “explains the huge pressure on the hospitals, many 50% full of COVID patients”.

The data is based on the number of newly symptomatic app users per day, and the proportion of these who give positive swab tests.

Graphs released by Zoe, which has 4 million contributors globally, show a decline just after the beginning of January.

(Zoe)
(Zoe)

The study suggests that daily new cases of COVID have fallen in the two weeks leading up to 7 January 2021.

In England, cases have fallen from 55,000 a day to 50,000 since the beginning of January, according to the graphs.

(Zoe)
(Zoe)

Wales showed a decline from around 170 new cases per 100,000 people at the beginning of January to around 90 now, according to the graphs.

Scotland shows a slight increase in cases from around 80 new cases per 100,000 people at the start of January to 100 now.

New cases in Northern Ireland have also had a slight increase, up from 80 to around 90 cases per 100,000 people.

British epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector, who co-founded the Zoe app, tweeted: “Good news/bad news story today from the ZOE app- as number of new daily cases falls again back to 62000 - but over 800,000 current symptomatic cases and the trend is still up in the over 60s which explains the huge pressure on the hospitals, many 50% full of COVID patients.”

(Zoe)
(Zoe)
(Zoe)
(Zoe)

On Sunday, the UK recorded another 54,940 coronavirus cases and 563 deaths.

The latest data takes the total number of fatalities within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test to 81,431.

On Friday, the UK also saw the highest number of COVID deaths reported in a single day in the UK, with 1,325 deaths.

Hospitals could soon be overwhelmed by COVID-19 and left short of beds as a result of the new, more infectious coronavirus variant.

Doctors have compared hospitals to “war zones” as wards overflow and ambulances queue outside hospitals, with some patients being treated outside due to lack of space.

Watch: Chris Whitty warns of ‘worse weeks’ ahead

The British Medical Association welcomed the new lockdown, saying hospitals are “stretched to breaking point”.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan declared a "major incident" due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus across the capital and the increase of COVID-19 cases in hospitals, which has left the NHS at risk of being overwhelmed.

Professor Chris Whitty said the NHS was seeing “significant” rises in the number of people needing COVID care with 12,000 more people seeking medical attention than during the first lockdown in April 2020.

Read more: 'Life will return to normal', says Chris Whitty (but not for a long time)

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said the NHS will face “significant crisis” unless “evasive action” is taken.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live he hopes that restrictions will not be necessary next winter but that society is “quite a long way” from returning to normal life.

Ambulances outside the Royal London Hospital, after Mayor of London Sadiq Khan declared a "major incident" as the spread of coronavirus threatens to "overwhelm" the capital's hospitals.
Ambulances outside the Royal London Hospital, after Mayor of London Sadiq Khan declared a 'major incident' as the spread of coronavirus threatens to 'overwhelm' the capital's hospitals. (PA)

“If we have a very effective vaccination programme, if the vaccine works for a long period of time and prevents transmission, and in particular if everybody takes it up as they’re offered it, then my hope is that we will need minimal or no restrictions in due course,” England’s chief medical officer said.

“There will be at some point a small enough risk that as a society we say ‘Look, we’re just going to get back to normal life’, but we’re quite a long way away from that at the moment.

Read more: NHS facing ‘most dangerous situation anyone can remember’, says health chief

“We’ll just say ‘This amount of risk we will tolerate’.”

But he said this winter “is in a completely different league” for the NHS.

“Anyone who talks to a doctor or a nurse, working in the NHS, anybody who actually reads any newspaper, they will know this is a really serious problem – this is not a typical winter.

“Every winter there are problems. This is in a completely different league.”

Watch: UK ‘super vaccination’ centre prepares to open