More restrictions as coronavirus cases 'double every week' in England

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Emily Morgan

Coronavirus cases in England are doubling every seven to eight days, new findings from the country's largest study into Covid-19 has revealed.

The study examined levels of infection among the general population in England, and the latest finding from between August 22 and September 7 - which tested more than 150,000 volunteers - indicate a surge in cases and raises the possibility of further lockdown measures.

It is estimated 13 people per 10,000 were infected in England, compared to four people per 10,000 between 24 July and 11 August 2020, Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI findings show.

Local lockdowns and restrictions: what is happening in the regions?

A raft of new measures and precautions have been announced on Friday as the latest regional figures provide a breakdown of coronavirus cases across the country.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the findings reinforced the Government's decision to limit social gatherings to just six people.

He said: “We’ve seen all across the world how a rise in cases, initially among younger people, leads to hospitalisations and fatalities.

"The pandemic is not over, and everyone has a role to play to keep the virus at bay and avoid another further restrictions.

“It’s so important that everyone abides by the law and socialise in groups up to six, make space between you and those outside your household, get a test and self-isolate if you develop symptoms and wash your hands regularly.

"It is vital you engage with NHS Test and Trace service if contacted to provide details of your close contacts and self-isolate if you are asked to do so.”

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said fines could be necessary in order to enforce self-isolation rules.

Asked whether the Government should consider a carrot and stick approach with better financial support for those self-isolating as well as fines for breaches, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it is a very fair point.”

He also launched a defence of measures amid disquiet among Conservative backbenches.

“I don’t want to see fines being levied but even more I do not want to see people behaving in a way that puts the most vulnerable at risk,” Mr Gove said.

“Sometimes there’s an argument that’s depicted as though this is pernicious of the liberty of freedom-loving people, well there are restrictions, and I love freedom, but the one thing I think is even more important is that you exercise freedom with responsibility.”

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Higher rates of infection are being seen in younger people aged 18 to 24, but there has been an increase across all adult age groups below the ages of 65 across the country.

The official Government R rate had risen to between 1.0 and 1.2 however the study released earlier by Imperial shows it could be as high as 1.7.

Of those who tested positive for Covid-19, 65% of participants did not report any symptoms at the time of swabbing or in the previous 7 days.

Professor Paul Elliott, Director of the programme at Imperial from the School of Public Health, said: “Our large and robust dataset clearly shows a concerning trend in coronavirus infections, where cases are growing quickly across England and are no longer concentrated in key workers.

"What we are seeing is evidence of an epidemic in the community and not a result of increased testing capacity.

"This is a critical time and it’s vital that the public, our health system and policy-makers are aware of the situation as we cannot afford complacency.”

Kelly Beaver, Managing Director- Public Affairs at Ipsos MORI said: “Each and every participant in our study has contributed immensely to the national effort in tracking COVID-19 across England.

"I would like to thank all those who have taken part for their invaluable contribution.

"By participating in the study they have helped to provide timely data to Government on the rise in case numbers and allowed Ministers to adopt measures to combat that rise.”

  • More than 300,000 volunteers in total were tested across England between July 24 and September 7 as part of the new report carried out by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI.