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 91,100 (68,700–119,000, 95% credible interval).
- The daily number of new infections is particularly high in the East of England (EE), London and the South-East (SE) with 14,500, 16,000 and 17,200 daily new infections, respectively. These correspond to 234, 180 and 188 per 100,000 population. 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 619 and 899 on the 1st January 2021.
- We estimate Rt to be above 1 in most regions. Rt is with certainty above 1 in the EE, SE. The probability of Rt exceeding 1 is 99%, 98% and 93% in the South West (SW) London, and North West (NW), respectively; 85% in the East Midlands (EM); 61% in the North East (NE); 40% in the West Midlands (WM); and 34% in the Yorkshire and Humber(Y&H).
- The growth rate for England is now estimated to be 0.02 (0.02–0.03, 95% credible interval) per day. This means that, nationally, the number of infections has started to grow again, with some evidence of plateauing only in the WM and Y&H.
- London, followed by the NW and the WM continues to have the highest attack rate, that is the proportion of the population who have ever been infected, with 21%, 20% and 20% respectively. The SW continues to have the lowest attack rate at 6%.
- 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 have started to show evidence of an increase, following a period of downward trend during Autumn. This results in most of the Rt values being around 1. Rt is certainly above 1 in the SE and EE, and almost certainly above 1 in the SW, London, and NW.
As a result, the number of infections has definitely increased with strong growth in the SE, EE and SW, moderate growth in London, a resurgence in the EM, NE and NW, and a potential plateauing in the WM and YH.
Incidence of deaths 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, but are expected to start to climb significantly throughout December and early January in all regions.
It is now possible to estimate that the latest lock-down has contributed to the continuation of the downwards trends in Rt and the slowing down in the growth in the number of infections. This contribution appears quite modest and now these trends have reverted in most regions, in particular in the SE, EE, London and SW. The impact of the increased restrictions announced on Saturday 19th December (Tier 4) cannot yet be measured, and therefore any impact from them are excluded from these results.
Additional comment from lead researcher – Professor Daniela De Angelis, MRC Investigator and Deputy Director
“The contribution of the latest lockdown has been modest and transient and we are now seeing upwards trends in transmission. The total number of new daily infections has increased substantially from 58,800 to around 90,000, with rapid increases in the South and East of England, requiring new, stricter measures. The rapid spread of the new variant makes any projections of how the pandemic will evolve in the near future highly uncertain. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Model and report changes
- The definition of deaths has been adapted to include all deaths that occur in individuals who have had lab-confirmed infection within 60 days from the date of their most recent positive test. This definition reflects more realistically the burden of COVID-19.
- 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 model uses seroprevalence data on the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in blood samples taken by NHSBT to estimate the levels of cumulative infection within the population over time. As of early June, the NHSBT has been giving a constantly declining prevalence of antibodies, and these data have been curtailed at this point.
- 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.
- The geographical definition has been changed from the seven NHS regions (here) to the nine regions typically used in government (here). This new spatial definition more appropriately reflects the existing regional heterogeneity.
Link to full report: https://www.mrc-bsu.cam.ac.uk/nowcasting-and-forecasting-21st-december-2020/