England’s coronavirus outbreak shrunk by 12.5 per cent last week, official figures revealed today, as experts said reopening schools had a ‘very small’ impact on the spread of the virus.
The Covid Symptom Study app estimated there were 2,839 daily symptomatic infections in the seven days to March 27, down from the 3,245 predicted last week. Across the UK they estimated there were 4,152 daily cases.
Professor Tim Spector, the King’s College London epidemiologist who leads the project, sounded a positive note saying the results suggested the country was in a ‘good position’ as it began to ease lockdown restrictions.
‘Last week we reported that cases in children had increased, but this has now reversed with cases falling, suggesting any impact of schools opening was very small,’ he said. ‘And even more positive news, is that cases in the over-60s have been consistently dropping for weeks.
‘The data shows we’re in a good position as we begin to resume life outside of lockdown and the effect of the vaccine programme should keep numbers low.’
Separate Test and Trace figures today revealed the number of people being diagnosed with Covid in England fell by 2 per cent last week with 36,606 cases — the lowest rate since September.
The Office for National Statistics will publish its official estimate of the total number of people infected with the virus later today, while Public Health England will update its surveillance report.
It comes after the Mail last night revealed Britain’s Covid infection rate is now significantly lower than 25 of the EU’s 27 countries.
The Covid Symptom Study shows that infection rates are still coming down in all adult age groups, although they appear relatively flat in school-age children (blue line)
There are mixed pictures across different regions of England, which Professor Spector said ‘we saw last summer when cases were similarly low’
King’s College London’s Professor Tim Spector (pictured on This Morning) said: ‘We’re in a good position as we begin to resume life outside of lockdown’
The Covid Symptom Study app, published early ahead of Good Friday, bases its estimates on reports from more than a million Britons on whether they are feeling unwell, what symptoms they are suffering, and if they have tested positive for the virus.
But it can only detect symptomatic infections – which trigger warning signs of the virus – and not asymptomatic cases thought to make up about a third of the total infections across the country.
Covid cases fell in all age groups last week except schoolchildren aged up to 19 years old, according to the app, where they remained steady.
And cases dropped in seven of England’s nine regions – with only the South East and London estimated to have seen slight increases.
The highest number of daily symptomatic cases were in London and the West Midlands (510 each), estimates suggest, followed by the East Midlands (369), Yorkshire and the Humber (346) and the South East (303).
Professor Spector added: ‘As cases decline again, we’re seeing regional divides widen to a three-fold difference, a familiar trend we saw last summer when cases were similarly low.’
Test and Trace data today showed England’s outbreak shrunk by two per cent in the week to March 24 after 36,606 people tested positive for Covid. For comparison, the figure for the previous seven-day spell was 37,289.
Some 7.1million lateral flow tests for Covid were also done last week, down from 7.7million in the previous week, as schools were asked to test pupils twice a week to root out any cases of the virus.
There were also 30,779 people transferred to the contact tracing system, of whom 91.4 per cent were reached and asked to provide details of close contacts – people they had been near for more than 15 minutes.
The UK’s successful vaccine rollout means it is now in the best position of all major European nations, despite being the worst hit in January.
The weekly infection rate in France — where intensive care units are overwhelmed — is around eight times higher than in the UK.
President Emmanuel Macron last night blamed the so-called ‘British variant’ for the country’s surge in cases, saying it created ‘a pandemic inside a pandemic’ as France heads into its third national lockdown from Saturday.
Test and Trace data today showed a total of 36,606 people tested positive for Covid in England at least once in the week to March 24. For comparison, the figure for the previous seven-day spell was 37,289