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Almost 620,000 people in England had coronavirus in the past week, according to the latest official estimates, but the rate of infection is slowing.
The Office for National Statistics estimates that 618,700 people in England were infected with the virus in the week to 31 October – one in 90 people, the highest rate measured by the infection survey to date.
This is a 9% rise on the 570,000 people estimated to have had the virus in the previous week. This is a slower increase than in previous weeks – the weekly rise stood at 31% the previous week and was as high as 92% a month ago.
However, there were still an estimated 45,700 new Covid cases a day in private households in England in the week covered by the analysis, albeit down from 51,900 a week earlier. This, according to the ONS, indicates that the rate of new infections “appears to have stabilised in recent weeks at around 50,000 new infections per day”.
As in previous weeks, the highest Covid-19 infection rates are still being seen in the north-west and Yorkshire and the Humber. Every region other than the north-east witnessed increased levels of infection.
Estimates for Wales put the number of infected people at 27,100 in the week to 31 October, or one in 110 people. A similar ratio is evident in Scotland, where the average number of people with Covid in the past two weeks is estimated at 47,300.
Northern Ireland remains the most affected country, with 24,900 people estimated to have had Covid in the week to 31 October, equating to 1 in 75 people.
Prof James Naismith, of the University of Oxford and director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said the slowing of new cases was “welcome news” and this latest survey, alongside other data, indicated that the virus is spreading “at a constant rather than an increasing rate”.
“This is evidence that the social restrictions prior to lockdown have had a real impact,” he said.
However, he cautioned that, even if next week’s survey continues with a pattern of stabilisation or reduction, the UK was “still very likely to face daily death tolls of 500 a day for a period in November”.
Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, of the school of public health in Imperial College London, said that while the figures were “clearly welcome”, there are “still a very high number of new cases each day – far higher than can be expected to be managed effectively by the current test-and-trace programme”.
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said this and other data sources “suggest that there has been a decline in the spread of the epidemic over the past week or so”.
However, he cautioned: “Whether this turns out to be a temporary decline or a longer-term trend, possibly as a result of the imposition of the three-tier system, it is too early to say.”
Some 61,498 deaths have been registered by the UK’s three statistical agencies to date where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
More up-to-date government figures add 2,442 deaths to the total in England, 163 in Wales, 43 in Northern Ireland and 24 in Scotland. This brings to 64,170 the total number of deaths involving Covid-19 recorded in the UK to date.
Source: The Guardian
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