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Number of people with coronavirus in England DROPS for the first time in three months

Number of people with coronavirus in England DROPS for the first time in three months to 633,000, ONS data shows (but a lab error means they don’t know how many are getting infected each day)

  • Estimate of total people infected has fallen from 664,700 last week to 633,000 this week as lockdown works
  • Figures still show that one in every 85 people in England is thought to have the virus, however (1.16%)
  • Today’s ONS report published a day early to coincide with Government’s post-lockdown tiers announcement
  • But a laboratory test-processing error means the statisticians have been unable to predict daily infections
  • Although positive test numbers are down and daily infections declining, England’s outbreak still looms large 


The number of people with coronavirus in England has fallen for the first time in three months, official data revealed today.

Mass testing by the Office for National Statistics suggests 633,000 people – 1.16 per cent of the population, or one in every 85 people – is carrying the virus and it said the outbreak was ‘levelling off’.

Estimated using tests done up until last Saturday, November 21, the number takes into account the effects of two weeks of lockdown and has declined for the first time since September.

The last time the country’s outbreak shrank was at the end of summer, in the week that ended August 25, when the predicted number of infections fell from 28,200 to 27,100 – it has risen constantly since then during the second wave and is now 23 times higher than it was before schools and universities went back.

A lab error, however, means the ONS cannot estimate how many people are catching the virus each day. 

The statisticians usually publish the number weekly and last Friday said there were 38,900 daily cases in the week to November 14. This had fallen by 10,000 a day from 47,700 a week earlier, and another decline was expected this week as the effects of the second lockdown filter through into statistics.

ONS data, considered to be the most accurate picture of England’s outbreak, were published a day early as the Department of Health prepares to announce which areas will face tough local lockdowns when the national rules are lifted next week.

The East Midlands, which includes Leicester, Derby, Peterborough and Nottingham, was the only part of England to see its outbreak grow in the most recent week. Infection rates fell in every other region.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will speak in the House of Commons this morning as the country holds its breath in hopes of extra freedom in the run-up to Christmas. Which areas will face which levels of social distancing rules from next Thursday will be confirmed within hours.

‘In recent weeks, the positivity rate in England has shown signs of levelling,’ the report said. 

It shows, however, that there are still big differences in infection rates across the country.

Three times as many people are thought to be infected in Yorkshire and the Humber than in the East of England, which had, respectively, infection rates of 1.9 per cent – one in every 53 people – and 0.6 per cent – one in 167.

North West, North East, East Midlands and West Midlands all have higher infection rates than the England average, which was around 1.2 per cent.

London, the South East and the South West all had lower than average rates, alongside the East of the country.

The percentage of people thought to be carrying the virus rose only in the East Midlands last week, while falling in all other places.

Infections also went down in all but one age group, the data show, with the spread of the virus increasing again among teenagers. 

‘Over the last week, increases in the positivity rate can only be seen in secondary school-age children and positivity rates have decreased in adults aged 35 years and over,’ the report said.

‘It appears that rates among the youngest age group as well as those aged school year 12 to age 24 years and 25 to 34 years are levelling off; rates remain highest among secondary school-age children and young adults.’

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