UK coronavirus live: No 10 fails to defend PM being at Tory meeting where social distancing rules ignored

Around 27,100 people in the community in England had Covid-19 during the week from 19 to 25 August, equating to around 1 in 2,000 individuals, with around 2,000 new cases a day, the latest data from the Office for National Statistics reveals. (See 12.40am.)

The team behind the work – which is based on sampling of households – said that, once again, the data suggests the infection rate in England is still levelling off, with no clear sign of a rise or fall, following rise in the rate in July.

However researchers behind the Covid-19 symptom study app say their data, based on swab testing of people reporting symptoms, tells a slightly different story, revealing a slight rise in daily cases of Covid-19.

The latest data suggests that from 16 to 29 August 2020 there were on average 1,423 new cases a day in England, compared with 1,073 reported the previous week for the period 9 August to 22 August. For the UK the figures are 1,974 and 1,292 new cases a day respectively.

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and lead researcher on the Covid-19 symptom study, said the rise in numbers was occurring as economic activity and travel were increasing.

Earlier this week experts told the Guardian the testing figures from the government suggested infections in the UK had risen since early July, although levelled off in August, even once an increase in the number of tests carried out was taken into account.

Prof Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said at the time: “What it clearly demonstrates is we’re in a position where case numbers are going up. So we don’t have much room for manoeuvre.”

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Responding to the latest figures, Prof Oliver Johnson, professor of information theory, School of Mathematics, University of Bristol, said:

Today’s ONS infection survey figures are very similar to last week. Indeed the long-term trend is broadly flat since the beginning of July, suggesting an R value very close to 1.

This data may appear to contradict the recent increase in UK cases: this may partly be due to some of those cases being discovered by targeted testing in hotspots. Further, it is important to note this ONS survey covers only England and Wales. A significant proportion of the recent increase in cases has occurred in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and so would not be visible here.


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