- The Office for National Statistics’ weekly surveillance report estimates there were 697,100 infections last week
- Most schools withdrew from summer break on 1 September, with the first data covering the entire week of the new semester
- Estimates are based on random cleaning in 100,000 homes and suggest that one in 80 people had the virus in the past week
Covid cases in England fell again last week, despite fears of a new wave of infections hitting the backs of millions of school-going children, official data showed.
The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) surveillance report estimates that 697,100 people were infected across the country in the seven days to September 11 on any given day, down 8 per cent in the previous week.
Most schools in England went back from summer break on 1 September, meaning that today’s data includes the first full week of the new school term.
There were widespread concerns that England would see a meteoric rise in infections like Scotland did when classes north of the border resumed in mid-August. Covid cases there tripled over the next fortnight, putting pressure on health officials to approve vaccines for children aged 12 to 15 this week.
The latest estimates, based on random swabbing of 100,000 households in England, suggest that one in 80 people were carrying the virus on any given day last week.
Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, said: ‘While it seems like those strongly expressed views that we will see an increase in infections once schools go back, it hasn’t.’
Meanwhile, top government scientists said England’s R rate held steady at around 1 over the past week, but could be as low as 0.9 or as high as 1.1.
The R, or fertility, rate is the average number of people that each COVID patient infects and must be below 1 for the epidemic to continue to decline. However, this is a backward indicator, and represents the situation the country found itself in three weeks ago.
Separate figures from Public Health England yesterday found that more than nine in 10 of England’s local officials saw their outbreaks subside in the first week after schools returned.
The Office for National Statistics’ weekly surveillance report estimates that there were 697,100 infections in England in the seven days to September 11, down 8 per cent in the previous week.
Meanwhile, the government’s scientific advisory group said England’s R rate held steady at around 1 over the past week, but could be as low as 0.9 or as high as 1.1.
The UK is currently receiving 1,000 Covid hospitalizations per day, most of which are in England (shown). This is up from about 750 on ‘Independence Day’ on 19 July, when all legal restrictions were lifted in England.
Deaths remain low despite high levels of transmission thanks to the rollout of vaccines
At the peak of the second wave in early January, about one in 50 people in England were estimated to have the coronavirus.
The ONS said the percentage of people testing positive has increased in the North West and decreased in the West Midlands and East of England. The trend is uncertain for all other regions, with outbreaks believed to have flattened out in the most recent week.
North East England and Yorkshire and the Humber had the highest proportion of people from any region likely to test positive as of 11 September – around one in 60. The former had the lowest estimate, around one in 120.
Speaking about the anticipated school increase last night, Professor Hunter said: ‘Today was the first day we would have expected to see any clear impact of school openings on the daily reports of Covid case numbers in England.
‘We started seeing case reports last week on September 9th down the same day, when an impact could be seen about eight days after most students went back to school.’
He said: ‘In an endemic infection, such as the one that COVID has now become, the infection reaches an equilibrium point where the proportion of the population balances the likelihood of being susceptible and of course many people in recent months. To some extent immunity is developed. as a result of vaccination or infection.
‘Furthermore, although case numbers are beginning to decrease in all age groups, age specific data is always reported somewhat later and it will be later next week when we can know for sure what in each age group What exactly is the trend?
‘Yet it looks like those strongly expressed views that we will see an increase in infections once schools go back have not.