Coronavirus infections fell by almost a third in England during the second national lockdown, research suggests.
There was a 30% drop in cases across the country over almost a fortnight this month, the latest interim findings from Imperial College London’s React study showed.
Regionally, the research suggests infections fell by more than half in the North West and North East, and were also down in Yorkshire and the Humber.
But prevalence remained high in the East Midlands and West Midlands.
More than 105,000 volunteers were tested in England for the ongoing research.
According to round seven of the study, there were 96 people infected per 10,000 between November 13 and 24, down from 132 per 10,000 between October 26 and November 2.
England’s second lockdown began on November 5 and is due to end on December 2, when the country will go into tiered restrictions.
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial, said the findings suggest the tiers before the beginning of November, followed by the lockdown, had helped bring cases down.
He said: “Our robust data offers encouraging signs for England’s epidemic, where we’re seeing a fall in infections at the national level and in particular across regions that were previously worst affected.
“These trends suggest that the tiered approach helped to curb infections in these areas and that lockdown has added to this effect.
“As we approach a challenging time of year, it’s even more vital that, through our actions and behaviours, we all play our part in helping to keep the virus at bay.”
The Department of Health said the research supports findings from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) that stronger measures would be needed in some areas to prevent the epidemic from growing and that local tiers should be toughened to keep the virus under control when the lockdown ends this week.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that, while the drop in cases is “encouraging”, the public must stick to the rules in the coming weeks.
He said: “Thanks to the huge efforts of the public over the last few weeks, we have been able to get the virus more under control.
“This latest data shows we must keep our resolve and we cannot afford to take our foot off the pedal just yet, despite the encouraging fall in cases and progress on vaccines.
“The next few weeks and months are the busiest time of year for our NHS, so it’s vital we all continue to follow new local restrictions, wash our hands, wear a face covering and observe social distancing.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice told ITV News said the UK can "see a way through this now, to turn a corner in spring/early summer, so now is not the time to abandon the measures that we're putting in place, for good reason, which is to try and save lives".