Millions of extra Covid swabs have been carried out since March 8 as part of No10’s drive to reopen classrooms, which experts warned would inevitably lead to a spike in positive tests.
But ministers have yet to witness any dramatic spike in the size of England’s epidemic, paving the way for
England’s outbreak has stabilised over the past fortnight, with the nation now recording around 5,500 cases per day. But the test positivity rate – a more accurate way to measure an outbreak when swabbing is ramped up – has continued to fall.
Department of Health figures, presented to the public as a heatmap, show the Covid infection rate has only risen in four age groups since the first lockdown-easing step – all of which are children and teenagers.
For example, the infection rate in 15- to 19-year-olds on March 7 – before schools were reopened – stood at 69.3. It jumped to 86.6 on March 18, the most recent day figures are available for.
Similar trends were seen for 10- to 14-year-olds (46.5 to 80.3) and five- to nine-year-olds (31.7 to 60). But the rate fell in every other adult age group over the same period.
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said it suggested that the reopening of schools has yet to trigger the spike in cases that experts have warned would likely happen.
Coronavirus cases are dropping in all age groups other than children and teenagers in the United Kingdom since schools reopened in England on March 8, dismissing fears cases would balloon in the wider population once children returned to classrooms
Department of Health figures, presented to the public as a heatmap (pictured), show the Covid infection rate has only risen in children and since March 8. Graph shows: The the rate of people with at least one positive Covid test result per 100,000 population in the rolling seven-day period in age groups moving up each bar in five-year brackets
He said: ‘Experience from the summer tells us that opening schools will not result in an increase in cases among adults for around four weeks.
‘An increase is to be expected but it’s the size and the scale of it that which will affect policy.
‘The Government’s plan to open lockdown at each stage is based on a review of the data at four weeks, so I would expect the April 12 date not to be pushed back.
‘Cases haven’t exploded and my understanding is that people are happy with the current numbers.’
The Department of Health figures show the rate of positive Covid test results per 100,000 population in a rolling seven-day period.
They show that while cases jumped in children and teenagers since schools reopened, they dropped drastically in all but one of the other age groups.
There was a slight levelling out in the rate for 35- to 39-year-olds from around March 16, though it still fell overall from 74.9 to 70.2 from March 7 to March 18.
Covid cases fell by six per cent to 37,000 as infections dropped for the tenth week in a row, NHS Test and Trace data has shown
Tests surged by 400,000 tests during the week ending March 17 — a seven per cent rise on the previous week when children first went back to school
The rate was lowest in the over 60-year-olds where it fell from 27.3 to 19.1 over the same time period, with the vast majority of those in the age group having had at least one dose of the vaccine by the time schools opened.
The data will come as a boost to hopes of the Government sticking to its April 12 date for the second stage of lockdown easing.
Speaking at Tuesday’s Downing Street press conference, England’s chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty said some leveling off of the rapid fall in coronavirus cases across all age groups was expected when schools reopened.
He said: ‘The rates of numbers of people testing positive for Covid in the UK is continuing to fall, but this is flattening off to some extent over the last week.
‘And this is expected at this point of the curve. It’s going down but more slowly, and we have always expected some upward pressure as people went back to school and some unlocking happened.’
All shops, hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and spas will be allowed to reopen on April 12 according to No10’s roadmap out of lockdown. Pubs and restaurants will also be allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors, in a welcome boost to the hospitality industry.
Covid cases in England fell by 6% last week despite 400,000 extra tests being carried out, Test and Trace data reveals
Covid cases fell by six per cent to 37,000 as infections dropped for the tenth week in a row,
The drop came despite a surge of 400,000 tests from March 10 to 17 — when the latest figures go up to and the first seven-day period assessed since children returned to schools.
In the second week since swabbing numbers ballooned as a result of the return to the classroom, cases continued to fall, though at a slightly lower rate than the 18 per cent seen the week before.
It comes as Department of Health data released yesterday showing the test positivity rate — one of the best ways of tracking the size of the outbreak when swabbing increases — has continued to fall.
The Test and Trace figures show the contact tracing scheme successfully received contact details from nine out of 10 positive cases it reached, its highest proportion to date.
But the the number of close contacts reached by contact tracers fell for the ninth week in a row — amid widespread criticism of the scheme.
Baroness Dido Harding said: ‘We are testing more people than ever before and in the last reporting week alone, the number of people tested increased by seven per cent.
‘These statistics illustrate the huge progress we have made through the testing and tracing system, with our latest data showing we reached nine out of 10 positive cases through contact tracing – the highest proportion to date.
‘Testing is already playing a pivotal role in the reopening of schools and making visits to loved ones in care homes possible and people’s continued desire to get tested is helping us identify positive cases rapidly and break the chains of transmission.’
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