Coronavirus cases may no longer fall in England, according to a major survey that raises concerns about whether blocking measures may contain the new variant, as the UK reported a record daily number of deaths.
Boris Johnson called the 1,820 deaths reported Wednesday “horrific” as he warned: “There will be more to come.”
Scientists at Imperial College London analyzed swab tests on more than 142,000 people across England between 6 and 15 January, which suggested that new infections may have fallen recently, but were now stable and perhaps even everything grew slightly, with only the south-west of England showing clear evidence of a decline.
Imperial’s React-1 infection survey found that 1.58% of people tested had the virus, a 74% increase compared to the previous survey conducted between November 25 and November 3. December.
Infections were highest among young people aged 18 to 24, at 2.51%, with rates more than doubling among those over 65 most vulnerable to 0.94% in the last survey.
Scientists estimate that the R value (the average number of people infecting an infected person) is 1.04 for England. The epidemic grows when R is above 1 and decreases when it falls below 1.
But the survey reveals regional variations, with potentially plateau cases in London and the east of England, falling to the south-west, where the R is estimated to be 0.37, and rising in Yorkshire and the east of Midlands.
Virus levels were highest in London, with 2.8% of respondents testing positive, and lowest in the south-west, with a prevalence of 0.53%.
In reaction to the new record death toll, the Prime Minister said the most transmissible variant discovered late last year was now found in virtually every part of the UK.
“It seems that infection rates in the country can now be maximum or flattened, but they are not flattening very quickly and it is clear that we must control it. We must maintain discipline, training, continue to observe the blockade. “, he said.
Imperial scientists warned that pressure on the NHS showed no sign of letting go.
“The NHS is very resilient and all sorts of contingency measures are being introduced, but we need to reduce prevalence rates because if we don’t, we will see the same pressure from prevalence to hospital admissions to [intensive care] income and unfortunately to death, ”said Paul Elliott, a professor of epidemiology and public health medicine at Imperial.
The data seems to contradict the downward trend in new cases reported daily earlier this week, but Elliott believes the Imperial survey may be ahead of official figures, especially because the survey puts people to the test. routine rather than detecting infections after symptoms develop and has gone through the process of getting a test.
“We believe that we are ahead of him [community testing] data from Pillar 2 and there may be a flattening in the coming days, but it is clear that we need to keep a brief observation, ”Elliott said.
In a press conference on the report, Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial, highlighted Facebook data showing a drop in mobility immediately after Christmas and an increase at the start of the new year, which could help explain a drop in cases followed by a drop.
But it is also believed that the new variant, called B117, which emerged in the southeast and is more transmissible, is causing more infections.
“The fact that we are closed and that it is stronger than block two [in November], but R is greater than 1, we would attribute some of that to the transmission of the variant variety, “Riley said.
The survey came when the UK saw a sharp rise in coronavirus infections, which reached 38,905 on Wednesday, following continued falls in cases earlier in the week. The latest figures bring the total number of cases in the UK to 3,505,754.
Government data up to 19 January show that of the 5,070,365 vaccines given so far in the UK, 4,609,740 were first doses, an increase of 343,163 over the previous day’s data. The second doses represented 460,625, an increase of 3,759 over the figures published the day before.
The seven-day rotating average of the first doses administered in the UK is now 281,490. Based on the latest figures, an average of 399,625 first doses of vaccine would be needed each day to reach the government’s target of 15 million first doses before 15 February.
Riley said that while the vaccine release focused “rightly” on those most at risk, they were not the most likely to spread the virus.
He said it would take “a large number of weeks or possibly months” for the vaccine to affect the spread of the virus and bring down new cases.