Research suggests that Covid-19 infections in England have fallen by almost a third during the second national lockdown.
The latest interim findings from the React study by Imperial College London showed a 30 per cent drop in cases across the country over almost two weeks.
The research shows that, regionally, infections fell by more than half in the North West and North East, and also decreased in Yorkshire and the Humber. However, cases remained high in the East Midlands and West Midlands.
Decrease in cases
The conclusion of the study states, “Three weeks into the second national lockdown in England there has been a ~30 per cent proportionate reduction in prevalence overall, with greater reductions in the North.
“As a result, inter-regional heterogeneity has reduced, although average absolute prevalence remains high at ~1 per cent.
“Continued monitoring of the epidemic in the community remains essential until prevalence is reliably suppressed to much lower levels, for example, through widespread vaccination.”
The study was funded by the Department of Health and Social Care in England, and was based on more than 105,000 volunteers who were tested for the ongoing research.
According to round seven of the study, there were 96 people infected per 10,000 between 13 and 24 November, which was down from 132 per 10,000 between 26 October and 2 November.
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial, said the findings suggest that the tier system brought in prior to the second national 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 curb infections in these areas and that lockdown has added to this effect.
“As we approach a challenging time of the 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.”
‘Can’t afford to take our foot off the pedal’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock commented that, while the drop in cases is certainly “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 under more 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.”
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advises that stronger measures will be needed in some areas in order to keep the pandemic from spreading, and that local tiers should be tightened up prior to lockdown ending.
The government’s Covid-19 winter plan states that “the previous tiered system had an impact on viral transmission, but SAGE advised that stronger measures would be needed in some areas to prevent the epidemic from growing.”
The government explains that the following tiers would need to be strengthened in order to keep the virus under control:
In Tier 1, the government will reinforce the importance of working from home wherever possibleIn Tier 2, pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals (like a full breakfast, main lunchtime or evening meal), along with accompanying drinksIn Tier 3, all hospitality will close except for takeaway, delivery and drive-through; hotels and other accommodation providers must close (except for specific exemptions, including people staying for work purposes or where they cannot return home); and indoor entertainment venues must also close
Other aspects of the tier system are also expected to be altered and refined.