The number of people developing Covid in England has dropped to another record low in the last week with just over 750 people now falling ill each day.
Researchers behind the country’s largest symptom tracking study estimate the daily number of people getting sick is down 13 per cent from 870 to 757 after falling five weeks in a row.
Across the whole of the UK, the decline was 10 per cent from 1,165 cases per day to 1,046. Infections have never been lower, the study claims, even last summer when
Professor Tim Spector, the King’s College London epidemiologist who runs the study, praised the ‘consistent low levels’ of Covid and said: ‘It’s a great position to be in.’
He claimed the findings ‘signal that we’re moving from a Covid pandemic to Covid becoming endemic in the UK’, with the disease becoming manageable.
The positive data, published in a weekly report, add to the continuing huge success of the vaccine rollout, which experts have found is cutting transmission of the virus as well as keeping people out of hospital.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi today insisted evidence showed England was on track for a ‘further’ reopening of the economy on May 17 – when pubs and restaurants will reopen for indoor service and foreign travel resumes.
Earlier this week a Government minister suggested that restrictions on funerals could ease as part of a greater unlocking in the next stage of the roadmap. Work and
Mr Zahawi also insisted the country was on track to come out of lockdown as planned on June 21, when all legal limits on social contacts are to be abolished. But critics say life will not fully return to normal because masks, mass testing and Covid passports will likely play a key role in daily life.
Meanwhile Test and Trace figures show infections fell by nine per cent in the week up to April 21, despite 600,000 more swabs being carried out. Out of 5.1million tests in the most recent week, just 16,776 were positive.
Other promising data today indicated England’s outbreak is still shrinking, as weekly Test and Trace figures showed positive tests fell by nine per cent to 16,776 in the seven days to April 21 – despite a surge in testing. For comparison, at the peak of the second wave almost 400,000 cases were being transferred for tracing every week.
As many as 5,081,932 swabs for the virus were carried out in the week to April 21, 15 per cent more than the more than 4.4million done in the previous week. It came as the Government rolled out mass testing across the country, asking adults to swab themselves twice a week for the virus.
But the mass testing scheme has drawn criticism from some scientists, who say it risks spreading the virus further because the lateral flow devices it relies on are more likely to give wrong results which could lead to people who have the virus failing to self-isolate. The Government says anyone with symptoms of Covid should get a gold-standard PCR test.
The prevalence of the virus has been falling almost constantly since the lockdown was imposed at the start of January, according to the study, with only a slight hitch upwards in March
The prevalence of the virus – the total number of people infected – is now thought to be lower even than it was last summer, when there were almost no lockdown rules
The Covid Symptom Study, which relies on reported symptoms and test results from volunteers, estimates that Covid levels are extremely low all over the country except in a handful of hotspots
The Covid Symptom Study relies on around one million volunteers reporting their symptoms and test results through a mobile app.
But coronavirus cases are now so uncommon that the system is struggling to accurately predict the size of the outbreak.
The fact that vaccines mean fewer and fewer people are susceptible to the disease also means the case rate cannot be directly scaled up to the British population.
Professor Spector said: ‘Low incidence and high immunisation rates in the UK makes it currently difficult for Covid surveillance surveys to extrapolate infection data to the wider population.
‘As a result, we’re assessing our methodology to make sure ZOE continues to produce accurate and reliable Covid data. It’s a great position to be in.
‘It’s very reassuring that low rates continue despite reopening gyms and outdoor areas in pubs and restaurants, and bodes well for further relaxation of restrictions in line with the government roadmap out of lockdown.’
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