Today, we have published a new report on our real-time tracking of the COVID-19 pandemic. This information is helping the government to track the COVID-19 pandemic in real time.
We have highlighted the latest findings and provided interpretation of what these findings mean. We have also explained our recent model and report changes.
- The current estimate of the daily number of new infections occurring each day across England is 60,200 (45,800–80,000, 95% credible interval).
- The daily infection rate is particularly high in the North West (NW) and North East (NE) with 16,300, 6,010 new daily infections, corresponding to 223, and 226 per 100,000 population, respectively. Note that a substantial proportion of these daily infections will be asymptomatic.
- We predict that the number of deaths occurring daily is likely to be between 518 and 860 on the 28th January 2021.
- The probability of Rt exceeding 1 is 85% and 84% in the South West (SW) and NE respectively; 61% in NW; 53% in the East Midlands (EM) and lower than 14% in all the other regions.
- The growth rate for England is now estimated to be -0.02 (-0.04–0.00, 95% credible interval) per day. This means that, nationally, the number of infections is declining but with a high degree of regional variation. Infections are still increasing in the SW and NE, whilst plateauing in the WM and EM.
- London, followed by the NW and the NE continues to have the highest attack rate, that is the proportion of the population who have ever been infected, with 30%, 26% and 21% respectively. The SW continues to have the lowest attack rate at 8%.
- Note that the deaths data used are only very weakly informative on Rt over the last two weeks. Therefore, the estimate for current incidence, Rt and the forecast of daily numbers of deaths are likely to be subject to some revision.
The plots of Rt over time are showing downward trends, following a period of increased transmission from the middle of the November lockdown to around the introduction of the national Tier 4 restrictions and the beginning of the Christmas period. These result in many of the Rt values being below 1, with the exception of the SW, NE, EM and NW where the number of infections is increasing (SW, NE) or plateauing (EM, NW).
Incidence of deaths which had levelled off during the last week of November / first week of December, with some falls noted in the North East, North West, and Yorkshire & Humberside, started to climb significantly throughout December and early January in all regions. The deaths that we are currently observing will be predominantly from infections acquired pre-Christmas. The deaths, which are now at a level similar to the first wave (e.g. SE and EE) are predicted to start falling soon, once the majority of the pre-Christmas infections have been resolved.
It is now possible to estimate that the Tier 4 restriction introduced on Saturday 19th December, in combination with the school holidays and reduced movements around the Christmas period, have contributed to a downward trends in Rt and the slowing down in the growth in the number of infections in most regions. The impact of the lockdown announced on 5th January cannot yet be measured, and therefore any potential effects are excluded from the discussion of these results. Regardless, the prevalence of infection remains high and the demand on healthcare services is currently extreme, so continued restrictions are needed to lower these levels and to maintain control over transmission.
Additional comment from lead researcher – Professor Daniela De Angelis, MRC Investigator and Deputy Director
“The combination of the Tier 4 restrictions introduced on the 19th of December and reduced activity over the Christmas period has resulted in decreased transmission, whilst the number of deaths occurring daily has reached levels comparable to the first wave in some regions. These deaths result from infections acquired prior to the Christmas period and are anticipated to peak over the coming days. This work implicitly incorporates the impact of the new variant, but its presence makes any projections of how the pandemic will evolve in the near future highly uncertain. We are monitoring the situation closely.”
Model and report changes
- The model incorporates estimates of community prevalence, by region and age group, from the Office of National Statistics COVID-19 Infection Survey (see Data Sources for details). These are included weekly over the last 50 days and for the age groups >4 years to inform trends in incidence that are too recent to be captured by the data on deaths.
- The geographical definition has been changed from the seven NHS regions (map) to the nine regions typically used in government (map). This new spatial definition more appropriately reflects the existing regional heterogeneity.
- Using observations of improved survival in hospitalised COVID-19 patients, we have allowed the probability of dying following infection with SARS-CoV2 (the infection-fatality rate, IFR) to gradually change over the course of June 2020, with a decrease being estimated.
- The modelling now accounts for a different susceptibility to infection in the under-15s, using information from literature (Viner et al, 2020) suggesting that children less likely to acquire infection when in contact with an infectious individual.
Link to full report