COVID cases could have stopped falling in three English regions

Emily Cleary
·3 min read
Empty streets and pavements on the Quayside in Newcastle upon Tyne the morning after Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out further measures as part of a lockdown in England in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus.
Coronavirus cases in the North East, East Midlands and eastern England could all have stopped falling, data published has suggested. (Getty)

COVID cases could have stopped decreasing in three regions of England, new figures show.

The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 is estimated to have decreased in all regions except for north-east England, the East Midlands and eastern England, where the trend is uncertain, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

On Thursday it was suggested that cases were again beginning to increase in parts of London, figures published by Imperial College London's REACT survey show.

The North East had the highest proportion of people of any region in England likely to test positive for coronavirus in the week to 27 February – around one in 150 people, according to Friday's ONS report.

The West Midlands had the next highest estimate, at one in 160.

Data published by the Office for National Statistics on Friday suggests the fall in infection rates could have flatlined in three regions of England (ONS)
Data published by the Office for National Statistics on Friday suggests the fall in infection rates could have flatlined in three regions of England (ONS)

The other estimates are one in 185 for the East Midlands; one in 190 for the North West; one in 195 for London; one in 225 for Yorkshire and the Humber; one in 260 for eastern England; one in 340 for the South East; and one in 365 for South West.

Professor Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, said: “This latest bulletin from the excellent ONS Infection Survey takes the information up to last week, the week ending 27 February, and the news is generally very good.

"The survey’s researchers report that the estimated percentages of people who would test positive for the virus that can cause COVID-19 have fallen since the previous week in all four UK countries, in most of the English regions, and in all age groups with one possible exception.

"Even in the regions and the age group where ONS can’t be confident that infections are falling, they aren’t concluding that they are rising, only that the trend is uncertain.

A person wearing a protective mask walks past a banner advertising vaccination at Lord's Cricket Ground, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London, Britain, January 22, 2021.  REUTERS/John Sibley
It has been suggested that cases of coronavirus in London could be rising again. (Reuters)

"Overall, the position is looking good.

"The virus hasn’t gone away yet, and hasn’t yet fallen to levels that we could live with in the longer term, in my view. But we’re getting there, and we’ve got effective vaccines now."

Government advisors have appeared increasingly concerned over the past week at infections slowly beginning to increase in some areas, with England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam saying that “this battle at the moment is not won” despite the success of the UK’s ongoing vaccine rollout.

Data in Thursday's REACT study found that while cases continue to fall across England as a whole, the speed of the decline has slowed.

The Catch-up sign
The Catch-up sign

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT programme, said: “The fall in infections our study has observed since January demonstrates that national public health measures are working.

"But these new findings showing that some areas are experiencing apparent growth reinforce the need for everyone to continue to stick to the rules and help keep infections down.

"At this critical time, with lockdown soon to be eased, we need to make sure that our behaviours don’t risk a rise in infections which could prolong restrictions, which we all want to avoid.”

The government has set out its aim to completely lift England's lockdown on 21 June at the earliest.

Watch: How England will leave lockdown