England’s COVID-19 prevalence rises but increase may be slowing, ONS says

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The prevalence of COVID-19 infections in England is estimated to have risen to 1 in 65 people in the week to July 24, Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Friday, adding the rate of increase might have slowed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lifted the last COVID restrictions in England in spite of the pre-dominance of the highly-transmissible Delta variant which concerns scientists globally.

The ONS infection survey provides a fuller, although lagged, picture of the pandemic in Britain in a week where the official daily number of cases started to fall from this wave’s peak of 54,674 recorded on July 17, 50,955 of which were in England.

“In England, the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to increase in the week ending 24 July 2021, though there are possible signs that the rate of increase may have slowed,” the ONS said.

The estimated prevalence of 1 in 65 is up from the 1 in 75 reported for the previous week.

The ONS looks to estimate infection numbers in the community beyond those who have been tested, giving an estimate of prevalence that is unaffected by fluctuations in people coming forward to be tested.

Cases rose steeply in the run-up to the end of legal coronavirus restrictions in England on July 19, and health minister Sajid Javid said cases could hit 100,000 a day after the unlocking.

Instead, the number of new cases recorded each day started to fall. Epidemiologists have said that the end of the Euro 2020 soccer championship and school summer holidays might have helped reduce the spread of the virus, as well as cautious behaviour in the population.

They also say the impact of the July 19 unlocking, which saw nightclubs re-opening and the end of social distancing requirements, will take a while to filter through to the data.

Daily reported cases fell for 7 straight days to a low of 23,511, but have risen on each of the last two days.

Photo: NHS (National Health Service) ads are on display in Ealing, west London, Britain. EPA-EFE/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

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