More signs that Britain may have passed the worst of the second wave emerged today as Covid deaths in London appear to have started falling.
And the symptom-tracking Covid Symptom Study estimates that the number of people developing Covid-19 has halved in a fortnight, now to 34,000 a day from 70,000 on January 8.
Numbers of people testing positive through NHS Test & Trace are also coming down, with the daily average tumbling from 60,000 on January 10 to 40,000 yesterday.
Professor Tim Spector, King’s College London epidemiologist, said today that the ‘signs are hopeful we’re on our way out of this situation’.
But he cautioned the virus is still widespread all over the country, with huge numbers of people infected. NHS hospitals are under immense strain and intensive care wards twice as busy as last year, despite thousands of extra beds. More than 20,000 people have died since January 1 and thousands more will die in the coming weeks.
There are still more than 7,500 people in London’s hospitals, with almost 40,000 patients across the country, meaning there will still be hundreds of deaths a day for the coming weeks and like months.
With the Government barely able to tighten lockdown rules any further, Downing Street press conferences have this week begged people to follow the rules.
Home Secretary Priti Patel last night said that ‘grievous breaches’ of lockdown restrictions are ‘costing lives’ as she announced anyone attending house parties would now be fined a whopping £800 each.
The number of people developing Covid-19 every day appears to have halved in a fortnight from 70,000 on January 8 to 34,000 today, according to the Covid Symptom Study, which uses self-reported symptoms through a mobile app used by around a million people
There are early signs in Government data that number of people dying each day in London has turned a corner and started to decline in mid-January, with the daily average declining from 169 to 163 and falling for four days in a row between January 10 and 14
Public Health England data posted on the online dashboard shows that the average number of people dying each day in London has come down from 169 per day on January 10 to 163 on January 14, the most recent data.
The average is calculated for each day by adding up all the deaths from three days before the date, the date itself, and three days afterwards, and dividing it by seven.
Numbers published since the most recent average have also been lower, meaning the average is likely to continue declining in the coming days.
It appears to mark a turning of the tide for the capital, which again became the hotspot of the country’s outbreak in December when a new super-infectious variant emerged in Kent and spread quickly through the city, forcing it into lockdown over Christmas.
Deaths in London appeared to peak on January 12, when 175 people succumbed to Covid-19.
Daily hospital admissions in the city have also started declining, with the average now at 747 people going into hospital each day, down from a peak of 864 per day on January 6.
However, the total number of people in hospital is still extremely high, at 7,588 on Wednesday, January 20. This was down slightly from a high of 7.917 two days earlier, but will still lead to hundreds more deaths in the coming weeks.
The city’s death count appears to have started falling at a time when the number of patients in hospital was still rising, meaning the decline may actually be a blip rather than a long-term trend – the coming days and weeks will give a clearer picture.
But there are other reasons to be optimistic, amid signs that infection rates are coming down in London and across the country.
The Covid Symptom Study today revealed that its estimate of daily new cases of Covid-19 has halved in a fortnight from 69,958 per day on January 8 to 34,133 today. Last week’s estimate was 53,528.
In London, infections dropped from 16,813 per day to 7,164 over the same period. The team’s estimates came down for all regions of England, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This study counts only people who develop Covid symptoms, thought to be around two thirds of everyone who catches the virus, and calculates it using reports from people signed up to the ZOE Covid Symptom Study app. This is around a million people across the UK who tell the app regularly how they feel and whether they have been tested.
Professor Tim Spector, who runs the study, sounded a tone of cautious optimism, warning that the country isn’t out of the woods yet.
He said: ‘According to ZOE app data, cases peaked on 1 January and, like confirmed cases, we’ve seen cases continuing to fall with an estimated R of 0.8.
‘However, we expect these rapid downward trends will slow down, as we have seen before with this virus. Hospital admissions are still high with hospitals full with 23-55 per cent Covid patients across the country.
‘But admissions have started to flatten, and if the trend continues we expect hospital admissions to fall next week and deaths to start plateauing and falling in the near future.
‘Signs are hopeful we’re on our way out of this situation but risk of infection still remains high and we still have a way to go. ZOE app contributors are also now logging their vaccines, so we’re now monitoring the roll out and hope soon to see a direct impact on the numbers.’