Covid infection rate slowing but still rising, data shows

Credit: PA

New data suggests the rate of Covid infections across England and Wales is slowing.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said an estimated one in 90 people in England (618,700) had the virus between October 25 and 31, up from 568,100 the week before.

Though the number of cases has risen, the rate of infections - which has increased recently - "is less steep compared with previous weeks", the ONS said.

Researchers warned infection rates were still increasing, with every region of England - apart from the North East - showing increased levels of infection.

It comes as a mass testing pilot was launched in Liverpool, with hundreds of people in the city queuing for the rapid result tests.

At Liverpool Tennis Centre, one of the six facilities which opened on Friday, people began to wait outside about 45 minutes before it opened.

Soldiers at the Liverpool Tennis Centre in Wavertree before the start of the mass Covid-19 testing in Liverpool Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

The armed forces have been brought in to the city to help deliver the scheme - which uses lateral flow tests to deliver results in under an hour for people who are not showing symptoms of the virus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the rapid testing - being piloted for the next 10 or so days in Merseyside - could be a "real way forward through the crisis".

His comments come as England entered its second national lockdown this week following a surge in the number of cases.

Health experts meanwhile have said plans to screen the population of Liverpool for coronavirus were not fit for purpose.

A group of academics said the potential for "harmful diversion of resources and public money is vast" and warned the half a billion pound project could be a "costly failure".

Angela Raffle, a consultant in public health based in Bristol, said the plans for mass testing in Liverpool "are not fit for purpose."

She continued: "Experience with screening tells us that if you embark on a screening programme without having carefully evaluated it first, without a proper quality assured pathway, without certainty of test performance in field settings, without full information for participants, and without the means to ensure that the intervention needed for those with positive results does indeed take place, the result is an expensive mess that does more harm than good.

Elsewhere government is expected to announce on Saturday that the blanket provisions allowing all pubs in England to serve takeaway food and booze will be extended.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

It comes as the official Covid death toll rose by 355 according to Friday's government figures, while a further 23,287 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported across the UK.

Separate figures produced by the country's official statistics agencies suggest a total of 64,170 deaths involving Covid-19 have now occurred in the UK.

Here's how infection rates have changed:

The ONS Covid-19 infection survey found there were an average of 45,700 new cases per day of Covid-19 in private homes between October 25 and 31.

This is down from an estimated 51,900 new cases per day for the period from October 17 to 23.

The data suggests the rate of new infections "appears to have stabilised in recent weeks at around 50,000 new infections per day", the ONS said.

Ruth Studley, head of analysis for the Covid-19 infection survey, said: "At a national level we are seeing infections slow across England and Wales but they are still increasing.

"Within England, every region apart from the North East has shown increased levels of infection.

"The level of infection in young adults and older teenagers appears to have levelled off recently. However, they continue to be the most likely to be infected despite increases in all other age groups."

When looking at new daily infections, the ONS said the rate across England appears to have "stabilised".

The figures do not include people staying in hospitals or care homes and are based on more than 689,000 swab tests gathered from across the UK in people with and without symptoms.

Meanwhile the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) said the Queen Elizabeth Hospital has been forced to postpone all planned procedures.

It follows a sharp rise in Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 emergency cases. Some 359 hospital beds were occupied by confirmed Covid-19 patients on November 3.

People queue at a Coronavirus testing centre at the Liverpool Tennis Centre Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

On Friday, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the government, said the reproductive rate – the R value – of coronavirus transmission for the whole of the UK remains at between 1.1 and 1.3.

It said: "Sage is confident that the epidemic has continued to grow in England over recent weeks.

"Although there is some evidence that the rate of growth in some parts of the country may be slowing, levels of disease are very high in these areas and significant levels of healthcare demand and mortality will persist until R is reduced to and remains well below 1 for an extended period of time."