COVID: Infection Rates In The UK Reportedly Levelling Off

There were more tentative signs the UK is turning the tide as recent coronavirus data show cases fell by 7.5 per cent from last week and figures showed infections were tumbling in every age group except the over-80s.

Deaths in the past 24 hours rose by 1,248 – a 7.4 per cent climb from last week’s 1,162 – bringing the UK’s grim fatality toll to 86,015.

However, experts put the UK’s R-number at now less than one, despite the latest official Government estimate issued last week claiming it was between one and 1.4

The Cambridge team said R in London and the South East was as low as around 0.6. In a report last night the university’s Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit estimated it had fallen to 0.61 in London and 0.64 in the South East.

The report said R is highest in the South West and North East, at between 1.1 and 1.2.

The authors said: ‘It is now possible to estimate that the Tier Four restriction introduced on Saturday, December 19, in combination with the school holidays and reduced movements around the Christmas period, have contributed to a downward trends in R and the slowing down in the growth in the number of infections in most regions.’

The findings will be welcome news for Boris Johnson, who is set to hold off tightening the rules despite soaring deaths and Nicola Sturgeon imposing extra curbs in Scotland.

Sir Patrick Vallance has warned that the country should brace for a ‘pretty grim period’ of fatalities as the NHS comes under strain from patients in the teeth of a devastating second wave.

In another positive sign, the proportion of positive tests declined in the week up to January 10. According to PHE, test positivity was 13.3 per cent last week, down from 17.5 per cent. Test positivity is a crucial way to monitor the outbreak because it takes into account fluctuations in the number of swabs carried out each day.

Due to the fact that the trend in death rates lags behind cases by a couple of weeks, scientists hope the drop in infection rates will translate into less deaths.

The latest Public Health England surveillance update found that infections were decreasing in all regions except the North West, South West and West Midlands in the week up to January 10.

Although the case rates remain high, it suggests that the escalation of the tiering system was already having an effect on the outbreak, as the blanket England-wide lockdown did not begin until January 4.