Covid infections are at lowest level for a YEAR: Just 757 people are getting ill with disease each day – as ministers hint England is set for an even GREATER unlocking on May 17
- Covid Symptom Study estimates there are fewer people getting Covid each day even than last summer
- Number of people with symptoms has dropped from August’s daily low of 874 to roughly 757 last week
- Expert behind study said it ‘signals that we’re moving out of the Covid pandemic’ to manageable levels
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 lockdown rules had been lifted and the virus was in retreat.
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 Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said stringent funeral rules were under ‘careful consideration’. At the moment a maximum of 30 mourners can attend and they have to socially distance.
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.
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.’
Other promising data from Test and Trace 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.
Despite a plethora of promising data, Mr Zahawi warned summer festivals could still be banned this year, warning Britons to avoid booking until nearer the time.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘If you are now booking, then you do carry some risk, clearly because we have to follow the data.’
England is set to lift restrictions on outdoor events to permit them to half-fill their venues up to a maximum of 4,000 people at the next easing on May 17.
And all restrictions on large events and performances could be relaxed by June 21 should the UK’s Covid outbreak continue to shrink.
But festival organisers say they still won’t be able to hold the popular events because they cannot get Covid insurance to protect them against any impact from the virus.
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