Increase in new coronavirus cases could be 'levelling off,' according to ONS

2 October 2020, 14:05

People walk along Oxford Street while while wearing face masks
People walk along Oxford Street while while wearing face masks. Picture: PA

The increase in new coronavirus cases could be “levelling off” after a sharp rise in August and September, according to new statistics.

An estimated one in 500 people were infected with coronavirus in England between September 18 and 24, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It found there were around 8,400 new cases per day across England from September 18 to 24, down on the 9,600 in the previous week.

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However, Katherine Kent, co-head of analysis for the Covid-19 Infection Survey, said: "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."

The figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.

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

An estimated 116,600 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between September 18 and 24, the ONS said.

This was the equivalent of around 0.21% of the population, up slightly on the previous estimate of 103,600 people - around 0.19% of the population - for September 13 to 19.

The ONS said that in recent weeks, "there has been clear evidence of an increase in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19", with the current rates highest in teenagers and young adults, it said.

"There is evidence of higher infection rates in the North West and North East, as well as Yorkshire and the Humber and London," it added.

In Wales, an estimated 6,400 people in private households had Covid-19 between September 18 and 24 - the equivalent of 0.21% of the population, or around one in 500 people.

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The ONS said its findings suggested the number of Covid-19 cases in Wales has "increased over the past six weeks" and that the trend may now be levelling off, but that because of a relatively small number of tests and a low number of positives in the sample, results should be interpreted with caution and "it is possible rates are still increasing".

In Northern Ireland, an estimated 0.26% of people in private households had Covid-19 in the two weeks from September 11 to 24, or around one in 400 people.

Because the infection survey has only been running in Northern Ireland for a short period, the ONS said it is too early to comment on any trend on the proportion of population testing positive for Covid-19.

Due to a relatively small number of tests within the survey sample, the results should be treated with caution. Based on 2,190 swab tests collected over the two-week period, just five people from five households tested positive.

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