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Rise in coronavirus cases ‘may be levelling off’ in England, ONS data suggests

Written by on 2 October 2020

There is “some limited evidence” that the recent sharp increase in new coronavirus cases in England is levelling off, the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

New cases of COVID-19 in England were around 8,400 per day in the latest week up to 24 September – down from around 9,600 per day during the previous week, an ONS estimate said.

“There is some limited evidence that the incidence rate may be levelling off following steep increases during August and September,” the agency said.

“However the wide credible intervals mean it is too early to say.”

The figures do not include people staying in hospitals or care homes.

According to the survey, there is evidence of higher infection rates in the North West and North East, along with Yorkshire and the Humber and London.

Katherine Kent, co-head of analysis for the COVID-19 Infection Survey, urged caution over the figures.

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“While the evidence suggests that the increase in new cases may be levelling off after a sharp rise in August and September, it is too early to be certain at this stage,” she said.

The study has analysed almost 300,000 test swabs over the last six weeks from randomly selected members of the public, whether they have symptoms or not.

It comes after the leader of the biggest COVID-19 study in England said restrictions across the north of England could be pushing down the growth of the coronavirus epidemic.

The organisation’s data indicated case rates were highest among 20-29 year olds, but showed positivity rates had increased across most age groups and were highest in the 60-69 age range in community testing.

The UK had reported a slight dip in those testing positive on Thursday after two straight days of more than 7,000 new daily cases.

But the ONS infection survey looks to estimate infection numbers in the community beyond those who have been tested.

It found an estimated 116,600 people had the disease in England – up from an estimated 103,600 people last week.

The ONS added there was clear evidence of an increase in the number of people testing positive in recent weeks.

And it added that the data pointed to higher infection rates in the north of England and in London.

The survey found shopping and eating out were the most commonly reported activities among people with COVID-19 in the two to seven days before symptoms began, suggesting this was considered a possible place of transmission.

However, only 4 per cent of transmissions were confirmed as having happened in a food outlets restaurant.

This compares to 41 per cent in educational settings – with the biggest proportion being in secondary schools, which saw a rate of transmission more than three times higher than those in colleges and universities.