Covid infection rates in England are STILL going up, random testing reveals: ONS figures show an increase despite dramatic plunge in daily infections – adding to fears that people are hiding symptoms to avoid being ‘pinged’
- The number of people infected with the coronavirus in England jumped up by 15% in the week ending July 24
- The Office for National Statistics estimates one in 65 people had Covid on any given day that week
- But there are signals the pandemic may have slowed with infection rates plateauing in parts of the country
- The proportion of people testing positive slowing in all regions apart from the North East, the ONS found
- Figures add to confusing picture across England, with official figures showing daily cases have fallen
- ‘Pingdemic’ may be encouraging workers not to take tests to avoid isolating, creating an inaccurate picture
Covid infection rates may have ‘slowed’ in England last week, Government statisticians admitted today amid mounting confusion over the true state of the country’s outbreak.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which carries out tens of thousands of random swab tests every week, estimated one in 65 people were carrying the virus on any given day in the seven-day spell ending July 24 – the equivalent of 856,200 positive cases.
This was up 15 per cent on the week before, and marks the highest level since January.
But the ONS said that there are possible signs the outbreak may have slowed, with prevalence rates appearing to level off in most regions except the North East, where up to one in 24 people per 100,000 were infected in the worst-hit boroughs.
The data adds to the confusing picture over England’s actual third wave, with official figures showing daily infections have fallen for over a week.
The ‘pingdemic’, which has caused huge chaos across the country, has led to reports of workers avoiding tests to escape having to self-isolate, spurring on fears that official figures may not be reflecting an accurate picture.
Scientists were baffled by the drop, saying it was down to a multitude of factors such as lack of testing, growing immunity and sunnier weather, but warned freedom day had yet to take an effect.
Separate covid-tracking researchers yesterday cautioned the official numbers may be too good to be true, and said they had only found rates had plateaued as opposed to dropped.
Experts said the ‘chaotic’ datasets – which make it almost impossible to read exactly how the country is faring in the third wave at present – were likely reflecting ‘a lot of different things going on at the same time’.
While cases are continuing to rise across England, the 15 per cent increase in the past week marks a slow down on the previous week, when the epidemic grew by 28 per cent.
This week’s estimates were based on tests of over 100,000 people in private homes across the country. It does not include tests in hospitals or care homes.
The ONS estimates the North East is currently the hardest hit by the pandemic, with 3.2 per cent of people there testing positive for the virus.
It is followed by the North West (2.1 per cent), the West Midlands (1.9 per cent), London (1.7 per cent) and the East Midlands (1.7 per cent).
A lower number of positive tests were recorded in Yorkshire and the Humber (1.5 per cent), the South East (1.1 per cent), the South West (1 per cent) and the East (1 per cent).
Different trends were spotted across England, with cases appearing to fall in the East and South West, but the ONS said this trend was uncertain.
Cases were also growing in Wales and Northern Ireland last week, while the rate of people testing positive dropped in Scotland.
Data shows 1.57 per cent of people in England had Covid, the highest rate compared to Northern Ireland (1.48 per cent), Scotland (0.94 per cent) and Wales (0.62 per cent).
Mirroring infection rates in England, the ONS estimated 27,200 people were infected in Northern Ireland last week, equating to one in 65 people.
But rates were much lower in Scotland, where one in 100 people were thought to have the virus (49,500 cases), and Wales, where just one in 160 people were infected (18,800 cases).