NEW coronavirus cases in Britain have halved in a week – with fewer than 5,000 people being infected each day, scientists say.

Data from the COVID Symptom Tracker suggested there were 9,400 new Covid-19 infections occurring every day across the UK last week.

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However, the team King’s College London have since updated their estimate and found this figure has plummeted by 48 per cent in seven days.

It does not include Northern Ireland or care homes, where Covid-19 is still thought to be spreading – meaning the true rate could be much higher.

The figures were based on nearly 13,000 swabs taken between May 24 to June 6 and then extrapolated to the wider population.

According to the estimate, the North East and Yorkshire is reporting the highest number of new infections per day, while the South West is seeing the least.

Scale of outbreak

And the R rate – the average number of people that one infected person can expect to pass coronavirus on to – was predicted to be below one across all regions. 

This prediction is in line with a Government-run surveillance sample but is three times lower than Public Health England's projected figure of nearly 17,000 a day. 

Developed by researchers at King's College London and company ZOE, the data-tracking app has been helping to predict the scale of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

Anyone – including healthy people, those who think they might have Covid-19 and those who have been diagnosed with the virus – can download the app and fill out some forms which describe their health and ask about possible coronavirus symptoms.


 

The first set of data was released on March 26 and suggested that around one in ten people were ill with, or had already had, Covid-19.

The team have used data from people who have logged in for seven days in a row to draw a picture of the entire UK population.

Results reveal cases have been declining since the peak of the outbreak in April, and have rapidly dropped off in the past week. 

The results are based on a sub-group of one million people, of whom 12,872 carried out swab tests when they began to feel unwell. 

Different estimates

108 individuals tested positive which – when extrapolated to the UK's 66 million population – suggests 4,900 people are becoming infected each day.

The figure is different from the 1,003 new cases recorded by health bosses yesterday because the Department of Health only records diagnosed cases.

Droves of patients with Covid-19 don't show any symptoms or suffer so mildly that they don't ever get tested for the condition.

In particular, King's revealed that in England, the number of daily new cases fell in the past week across all the regions but at different rates.

Incidence rates

It dropped 49 per cent in the North West, where 820 people are being struck down every day – down from 1,608 last week.

Meanwhile, the South East has seen a 46 per cent drop (365 from 674), followed closely by a 43 per cent decrease in the South West (162 from 284). 

And according to the COVID app, the North East and Yorkshire is still the one area of the country with the highest incidence rates.

Despite this, the number fell from 1,965 to 1,275 a reduction of 35 per cent, suggesting that the situation is improving across all regions. 


Cases are still lower in London than the north or east of England.

Some 790 people are becoming infected per day, a drop of 27 per cent from last week.

The estimated number of new daily cases from King's of 4,900 is similar to data released last week from a Government-run Covid-19 surveillance scheme.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data suggested only 5,570 people in England were catching the virus on a daily basis, on average, in the first week of June.

Downward trajectory

The figure – from swab tests taken from 20,000 people picked at random -was down from 8,000 the week before. 

They have not yet published the estimated daily infection rate for this week but it is expected to follow a similar downward trajectory.  

The ONS prediction only estimates new cases occurring in the community, not hospital patients or people who live in institutions or homes. 

As neither group is sampling people living in institutions such as care homes, their estimates may be lower than reality.

Public Health England (PHE) experts predicted last week that 16,700 new cases were appearing per day across all settings in England alone. 

It is really encouraging that overall we are seeing a significant and consistent decline in the number of cases across the UK

King's also calculated the R rate – which scientists use to predict how far and how fast a disease will spread.

They found that across all regions, the R is below one – with it highest in London, the midlands and the north of England, at 0.9.

The R must be kept below 1 in order to keep the crisis under control. 

This data is in contrast to research from Cambridge University and PHE.

The model – one of ten fed into Number 10's SAGE panel – last week suggested the R was above one in the North West and the South West.

Their models are linked to hospital admissions and deaths, while King's calculated the R rate based solely on the symptom-tracking app. 

They report that this method of calculating R is more current than seen in models using deaths, the data of which is about three weeks old.     

Lead author of the King's College London study, Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology, said single sources of data cannot be relied upon.

However, he added: "It is really encouraging that overall we are seeing a significant and consistent decline in the number of cases across the UK, particularly in the North, which tell us that the vast majority of the British public are continuing to be really careful. 

"However, we should urge caution when it comes to the easing of the lockdown measures, especially in cities like London. 

"Whilst the numbers are falling, thousands of cases of Covid are still very much in the population so measures such as social distancing, regular swab testing, wearing of gloves and face masks in public and maintaining high levels of personal hygiene should be followed closely if we want to keep the numbers low going forward."

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