Fewer than 900 people in England are now developing Covid each day, according to a symptom-tracking app, the lowest level ever and below estimates for August when there were next to no restrictions.
The Covid Symptom Study this week claims only 870 people suffered a symptomatic infection with the virus every day last week, based on reports from more than a million Britons.
This was the lowest weekly number since estimates began in June and below the previous low point in mid-August before the ‘rule of six’ and a flurry of other restrictions came into force. For comparison, there were around 50,000 daily cases in the darkest days of January.
Professor Tim Spector, the King’s College London epidemiologist who leads the study, said the still-falling cases suggested that concerning fast-spreading and potentially vaccine-dodging variants were not having an impact.
He added this was likely down to the successful vaccination programme – which has already jabbed three in every five Britons – social distancing, and warmer weather allowing people to spend more time outdoors.
Other promising data today showed England’s outbreak is still shrinking, as weekly Test and Trace figures showed positive tests fell by nine per cent in the seven days to April 14 — despite a huge increase in testing.
Boris Johnson had promised to stick to ‘data, not dates’ when it comes to easing curbs but has so far refused to move quicker, despite vanishingly low Covid deaths and fewer than 2,000 virus patients being treated by the NHS.
The ZOE Covid Symptom study app estimated 870 people in England were suffering a symptomatic infection with the virus every day last week. This is down to the same levels as in August, before the burdensome rule of six came into force
Separate statistics from Test and Trace also showed England’s Covid cases fell by 10 per cent in the week to April 14, after there were 18,050 people transferred to the system for contact tracing
The drop in cases came despite an extra 600,000 swabs being carried out last week, in a further sign the outbreak is falling
Professor Spector said: ‘Rates are down 28 per cent again this week and hopefully we’ll drop below the milestone of 1,000 cases (in the UK) in the next few days towards our record low last year in August. The ONS survey is also now showing downward trends.
‘I am encouraged to see no impact from the South African variant in the areas of Southwark and Lambeth where some expected it to get out of control.
‘This is likely due to the vaccination programme, the continuation of social distancing measures and the improving weather making it harder now for any new variant to take hold.’
The Covid Symptom Study shows that infection rates are low all over the UK with some hotspots in the Midlands and North of England, as well as in Wales and the south of Scotland
The ZOE Covid Symptom Study app relies on more than a million Britons reporting their symptoms and whether they have tested positive for Covid to estimate the spread of the disease across the country.
But it doesn’t account for the asymptomatic cases that make up about a third of all infections, according to official estimates.
Its estimate of England’s Covid cases for last week marked the lowest weekly figure published by the app.
But scientists behind the project also produce daily estimates, which show Covid cases fell below the latest figure for five days in August. The lowest estimate in the daily figures was 802 new cases on August 12.
The latest figures marked a 30 per cent drop from last week, down from 1,271.
Test and Trace data also suggested today that Covid cases were tumbling, falling by almost a tenth in England compared to the previous week.
The official Covid surveillance system said 18,050 people tested positive for the virus in the week ending April 14, down nine per cent on the 19,767 from the week before.
Tracers recorded a drop despite an extra 600,000 swabs being carried out in the latest week, showing infections were still falling despite a huge boost to testing.
The test positivity rate was around 0.41 per cent in the latest week, down from 0.52 per cent in the previous seven-day period. That means one in every 244 tests is positive. It was 15 per cent at the height of the second wave – one in seven.
Covid variants have sparked concern in official circles after studies suggested they may be able to get around vaccine-triggered immunity and potentially spark another outbreak of the virus.
But official data shows they are yet to gain a foothold in Britain, with surge testing sparked in areas where they are detected as ministers aim to root out every last case.
There are 192 daily coronavirus hospital admissions across the entire UK, according to the most recent figures, down from a peak of 4,500 in January
Public Health England has recorded only 600 cases of the South African variant since it arrived in Britain in December, and only 40 of the Brazilian P1 strain since January.
Experts say most of these cases were linked to travellers coming into the country and then quarantining, and that there has been very little transmission in the wider community.
The Indian variant, which has sparked concern in recent weeks, has been spotted 215 times but a number of these are said to be ‘double-counting’ because some samples are checked twice by scientists to ensure they have spotted the right strain. Official estimates show there are more than 100 confirmed cases.
Mr Johnson eased another raft of restrictions across England last Monday, with pubs and restaurants allowed to reopen for outdoor service and shops and hairdressers again permitted to serve customers.
The next date for when more draconian curbs to be relaxed is May 17, when foreign holidays are set to be permitted, and pubs and restaurants can serve indoors. Cinemas, soft play areas, and indoor exercise classes will also be allowed to re-start.
At a Downing Street press conference this week, the Prime Minister said he saw ‘no reason’ in the current statistics for the next easing to be delayed amid calls for him to ramp up the programme.
FIRST VACCINE RECIPIENT MARGARET KEENAN, 91, APPEALS FOR PEOPLE NOT TO MISS SECOND DOSES
The British grandmother who became the first person in the world to get an approved Covid vaccine in December has encouraged everyone to get their second dose.
Maggie Keenan, 91, from Coventry, praised ‘incredible’ staff for the UK’s successful vaccine drive while speaking to NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens in a Zoom call.
The grandmother-of-four made history when she received the first Pfizer jab outside of a clinical trial at University Hospital, Coventry on December 8.
Maggie Keenan, 91, from Coventry, has encouraged everyone to get their second dose after making history by becoming the first person in the world to receive a Covid vaccine
Ms Keenan, a former jewellery shop owner who only retired four years ago, is now fully vaccinated after getting her second jab at the end of December and says she is looking forward to ‘a little holiday’.
And she urged all people called for their second vaccines to book appointments as soon as possible.
More than 10million people in the UK are now fully protected from Covid after having their second jab, with case numbers and deaths falling by the day as a result. Scientists believe some 10,000 lives have already been saved by the vaccination programme.
And asked what people feeling hesitant should do, Ms Keenan said: ‘I’m telling everyone to go and get it because it really is the best thing I’ve ever done.
‘The best thing I ever did. I hope everyone comes forward. There’s nothing to it, you don’t even feel anything.
‘I just feel really honoured to have had it done, to have been the first and to have got the ball rolling.’
Ms Keenan, who has lived in Coventry for more than 60 years but is originally from Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, spoke on the Zoom earlier this week, where she was reunited with matron May Parsons.
The matron for respiratory medicine at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, administered Ms Keenan’s first jab.
She spoke of her pride at delivering the vaccine and how well the roll-out has gone on since.
Ms Parsons said: ‘Vaccinating Maggie was a little spark of light the midst of the darkness, and now I feel like the dawn is coming. It’s almost unbelievable that we’ve managed to roll out the vaccine so successfully.’