Covid expert says cases levelling off in some areas ‘because of schools reopening’


The daily number of symptomatic coronavirus cases has dropped 18 per cent from last week, according to new figures.

But the rate of decline has stalled in some parts of the country, a trend experts have attributed to the reopening of schools in England on March 8.

Swab test data from the ZOE COVID Symptom Study (ZOE) shows that there are currently 4,470 new cases a day in Britain.

This is down from 5,494 cases a week ago – and a drop of 93 per cent from the peak of around 63,000 at the start of 2020.

The latest number works out as around one in every 823 people having coronavirus.

Experts say the decline in cases in some parts of the country has started to level off in recent days due to schools reopening, but that this should not be a cause for concern.

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Pupils gather in the playground for a break on their first day back from lockdown at Chertsey High School
Professor Tim Spector OBE, an epidemiologist leading the study, said a close eye was being kept on the rates

Professor Tim Spector OBE, an epidemiologist leading the study, said a close eye was being kept on the rates.

He said: “After steady falls at the beginning of the week, we’ve seen cases levelling off in recent days, especially in Scotland, Wales and the North-East of England.

“This is to be expected after reopening schools across the country and is no reason to worry.

“We’re keeping a close eye on cases in school-aged children and so far there’s nothing alarming about the data.

“I believe we’ll see case numbers holding steady for a little while before cases drop again.”

Britain’s R rate is currently at 0.8, ZOE said – which means 10 infected people will transmit the disease to eight more people, and the outbreak will shrink over time.

6,603 people tested positive across the nation yesterday, with 95 deaths reported.

Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK
The latest number of daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Britain

According to ZOE, the area where the lowest number of symptomatic cases recorded in England over the past week was in the South West, with 252.

Yorkshire and the Humber was the highest, with 602, followed by London, with 549.

Scotland recorded 648 symptomatic cases, Wales 424 and Northern Ireland 172, according to the statistics.

The figures are based on around one million weekly reporters and the proportion of newly symptomatic users who have positive swab tests, ZOE said.

The latest numbers come amid a debate over the safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Boris Johnson said he would be taking a first dose today as Downing Street tried to reassure the public about the jab.

Officials said are seeking to quell fears over its after five more cases of a specific brain blood clot in patients who received the vaccination.

Some countries in Europe stopped using the vaccine temporarily, although most have now resumed.

The jab is “safe and effective” and its benefits outweigh any risks, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) ruled yesterday.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he hosts a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London
Boris Johnson is having his vaccine today, March 19

But the European regulator said it “cannot rule out definitively” a link between “a small number of cases of rare and unusual but very serious blood clotting disorders” and the vaccine, though investigations were ongoing.

Emer Cooke, EMA executive director, said this situation was not unexpected, adding that “when you vaccinate millions of people” such reports of rare events will occur.

More than 27.5m people have been vaccinated in Britain to date, including all types of jab and first and second doses.

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