The latest weekly swab test survey suggests infection rates of the CCP virus have started to fall in England.
The findings add to a mixed bag of studies this week that provide different pictures of the current pandemic wave.
“In England, the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) remained high but decreased slightly in the week ending 16 January 2021,” according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) report on the survey results.
According to the swab survey, infection rates remain high in London, where 1 in 35 tested positive for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus.
In England overall around 1 in 55 had the virus, according to the analysis of the survey data.
The national lockdown came into force on Jan. 6, 10 days before the end of that test period.
Scientists typically suggest the impacts of lockdowns start to be reflected in infection rates after about two weeks.
Adding to the difficulty of assessing the lockdown impact, however, is that much of the country had already been in local lockdown-type conditions for various lengths of time when the stricter nationwide measures were brought in.
The government-sanctioned survey uses swab samples collected from a pool of volunteers to establish levels of infections from different regions—and then scales up with some modeling.
Other methods of tracking the virus levels this week have produced different pictures.
Another key government-sanctioned study run by Imperial College London found that the virus may have been rising during the same period.
Imperial’s Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission study-1 (REACT-1), one of England’s largest studies, tests between 120,000 and 180,000 people each month.
“During the initial 10 days of the third COVID-19 lockdown in England in January 2021, prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 was very high with no evidence of decline,” the conclusion of the latest interim report (pdf) reads.
Meanwhile, another study that tracks real-time symptoms recorded via a phone app points to an earlier and sharper decline in the virus that started shortly after the new year—before the lockdown began.
“We see halving new cases since the peak on 1st Jan falling across the UK with an R of 0.8,” wrote professor Tim Spector, who runs that study called the Zoe COVID Symptom Study. “The React study paused for a month in Dec (unlike ours) so likely missed the peak so in my opinion trends unreliable this time,” he wrote on Twitter.
Another data point is the overall number of people who test positive each day—which is more subject to fluctuations in the number of tests carried out. That number peaked on Jan. 4, and has been declining since, dropping by 25 percent over the last week.
Data on hospitalizations—which lag behind—suggests they have been slowly falling over the last week.
Deaths, which lag yet further behind, have continued to rise. The latest daily UK average death toll (taken over 7 days) stands at 1,241. On Jan. 20, the UK recorded 1,817 deaths in one day. The highest in the 2020 spring peak was 1,224.
“The lag between infections and then hospitalizations and deaths mean that healthcare services still face unprecedented demand,” said Dr. Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading. “We are still likely to see recorded deaths continue to increase for some time yet.”
He added, “As tempting as it is to find some cause for celebration in infection rates that are beginning to fall, as seen in both ONS data and the Government’s publication of the R number, we still see very high levels of COVID-19 in every region of the UK. “