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COVID infection rate in England and Wales appears to be slowing down – ONS

Written by on 6 November 2020

The rate of coronavirus infections across England and Wales appears to be slowing down, new data suggests.

An estimated 618,700 people had coronavirus in community settings in England between October 25 and 31 – equivalent to around one in 90 people, or 1.13% of the population, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

It represents a jump from 568,100 people who were estimated to have COVID-19 in the period 17 to 23 October.

But while the number of infections has increased in recent weeks, “the rate of increase is less steep compared with previous weeks”, the ONS said.

In its latest update on Friday, the ONS said new infections in England had stabilised at around 50,000 a day, suggesting a levelling off in a recent steep rise in cases.

Sky News economic editor Ed Conway said it was “good news”, adding: “Still early days (the modelling has given us some false hope before) but this is perhaps the most promising sign yet of a slowdown in new infections.”

The ONS data refers to COVID-19 infections in the community, meaning private residential households, and does not include people with the virus in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.

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COVID-19 cases rise, but rate may be slowing

There were an estimated 45,700 new cases per day in England in the week to 31 October, down slightly from the previous week’s estimate of 51,900.

“Incidence appears to have stabilised at around 50,000 new infections per day,” the ONS said.

In Wales, an estimated 27,100 people in private households had COVID-19 between 25 and 31 October – the equivalent of 0.89% of the population.

This is up slightly from an estimated 26,100 people for the period 17 to 23 October, or 0.86% of the population.

COVID cases are down - but does that mean the restrictions are working?

COVID cases are down – but does that mean the restrictions are working?

The ONS said its modelling suggested the number of COVID-19 cases in Wales had “increased in recent weeks, but the rate of increase is now less steep compared with previous weeks”.

COVID-19 infection rates are estimated to have increased in all of England’s regions over recent weeks, except the North East where they “appear to have levelled off”.

The highest regional rates remain in northwest England and Yorkshire & the Humber, while the lowest rates continue to be in southeast England, southwest England and eastern England.

There have also been increases in infection rates across all age groups, except among older teenagers and young adults whose rates appear to be levelling off, the ONS said.

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However, it added that the highest infection rates continued to be seen among older teenagers and young adults.

The latest ONS data comes after England was plunged into a second national lockdown on Thursday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that four weeks should be enough to drive down the spread of coronavirus so severe restrictions can be eased.

More than 64,000 deaths involving COVID-19 have now recorded in the UK, according to figures produced by statistical agencies.

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‘We want families to come together at Christmas’

Analysis: Tentative signs things aren’t quite as bleak – but we are nowhere near out of the woods

By Thomas Moore, science correspondent

Are there reasons to be hopeful that the second wave is on the turn?

The latest data on the epidemic from the Office for National Statistics show that the estimated number of new COVID infections each day in England has fallen.

After rising sharply every week since September they were actually down by 12% last week – dropping from almost 52,000 a day to 45,700.

It’s a big dip, but it’s too soon to pop the prosecco.

The ONS is the most reliable survey of the week because it tests for the virus, whether or not people have symptoms.

But it’s an estimate of what is happening in the whole population based on tests of 200,000 people.

So there is a margin of error around each infection rate – and it’s possible the apparent downward turn is actually just a statistical blip.

On the other hand, there are reasons to be optimistic in some of the worst hit areas.

Rates in the North East have plateaued for several weeks. And, for the first time, infections in the North West have actually dipped.

Millions of people in the North have been living under significant restrictions for several weeks, so it is possible that the spread of the virus has begun to slow.

It’s early days, though, and elsewhere there is no such glimmer of hope.

Rates are still rising in other regions of England and in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland too.

The worry for the NHS is that the number of older people being infected continues to rise steadily.

The infections of today are the hospital admissions of next week and the deaths of the week after.

So beds will continue to fill with COVID patients for some time to come.

During the last lockdown it took many weeks for hospital admissions and deaths to fall.

This time the lockdown is shorter and less severe. Combined with the cold weather the tail could be even longer.

We are nowhere near out of the woods. But there are tentative signs that things aren’t quite as bleak as they were.