Britain’s Covid-19 R rate is now above one again, the Government’s top scientists revealed today after a separate report revealed cases rose in England last week for the first time in a month and amid growing fears of a tougher post-Christmas lockdown.
The number of people with coronavirus in England surged by 86,000 in the second week of December, statistics show, confirming that it took just days for the effects of November’s lockdown to wear off after it ended.
An Office for National Statistics today estimated that 567,300 people were infected with the virus by December 12, up from 481,500 a week earlier.
The number marked the first time in a month that infections had risen after restrictions were tightened across the country to try and control the second wave.
These rules worked for a while, with ONS figures showing that total infections plummeted by almost 200,000 in the space of a month from a peak of 654,000, but cases are now rising again in the run-up to Christmas.
But a huge spike in cases in London, where the infection rate has doubled in just three weeks, has dragged the infection rate up again, along with rising numbers in most other regions of England. The North West and Yorkshire & the Humber – worst-hit at the start of the second wave – were the only regions where cases fell in early December.
The ONS has temporarily stopped estimating how many people catch the virus each day, because an expansion of its study meant experts had to work out a way to make sure the numbers were still reliable.
But the Covid Symptom Study, run by health-tech company ZOE along with King’s College London researchers, today estimated that there are 26,897 people developing Covid-19 symptoms each day, up 40 per cent from 19,190 a week ago.
The study also predicted that the R rate is back above one, at 1.1 – an official update from SAGE is expected this afternoon.
The ONS report said: ‘The percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus in England has increased; during the most recent week (6 to 12 December 2020), we estimate 567,300 people within the community population in England had Covid-19, equating to around 1 in 95 people.
‘Over the most recent week, the percentage of people testing positive has increased sharply in London, with other increases in the East of England, the East Midlands, and the South East; the percentage of people testing positive in the North West and Yorkshire and The Humber has continued to decrease in the most recent week.’
All age groups are seeing infection rates rise, the report said, and cases are highest among schoolchildren, who were allowed to keep going to school during lockdown.
At least one in 50 children between the ages of two and 11 likely had coronavirus in the week to December 12, the report said, along with one in every 40 teenagers between 12 and 16.
Rates were declining in people between the ages of 17 and 24, and also in 50 to 69-year-olds, data show, but rising in all other groups.