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 24,000 (12,100–45,600, 95% credible interval).
- The daily infection rate highest in the North West (NW) and North East (NE) with 5,140, 1,890 new daily infections, corresponding to 71 per 100,000 population in both regions. 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 216 and 439 on the 23rd February 2021.
- The probability of Rt exceeding 1 is around 35% in both the NE and Yorkshire and Humber (YH); 15% in the East Midlands (EM); 10% in the NW; 7% in West Midlands (WM); 1% in the South West (SW); and Rt is lower than 1 with certainty in London, the South East (SE) and East of England (EE).
- The growth rate for England is now estimated to be negative at -0.04 (-0.07–0.01, 95% credible interval) per day. This means that, nationally, the number of infections is decreasing, although the speed of this decrease varies across regions.
- London, followed by the WM, EM and EE, continues to have the highest attack rate, that is the proportion of the population who have ever been infected, at 35%, 31% and 24% respectively. The SW continues to have the lowest attack rate at 10%.
- 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 the estimated Rt over time are showing a plateau, following a period of downwards trends from the introduction of the national lockdown in January. All the Rt are below 1, with the highest values in the YH (0.90) NE (0.89), EM (0.77) and NW (0.74), although these estimates are quite uncertain and the upper bounds include values higher than 1. The incidence of deaths appears now to have peaked having reached levels similar or higher to those of the first wave. Deaths are now falling sharply in most regions, with the exception are the YH and the NE, where, allowing for possible reporting delays (see here), deaths cannot be said to be decreasing with any certainty. These regions warrant further close monitoring. Estimates of the number of new infections further confirm that we have now clearly passed beyond the peak of the second pandemic wave. Other indicators (e.g. hospital bed prevalence, reported new cases etc) also suggest a declining epidemic. However, regardless of current positive trends, the prevalence of infection remains high and the demand on healthcare services is still extreme. Control measures continue to be essential to lower prevalence and to contain transmission until vaccination has been completed.
Additional comment from lead researcher – Professor Daniela De Angelis, MRC Investigator and Deputy Director
“There are clear signs of a decreasing epidemic in all English regions. However, prevalence remains very high and demand on hospitals and intensive care units is still well over critical levels. There is no room for complacency. Restrictions are still needed until prevalence reaches safe levels and the NHS has recovered.”
Model and report changes
- The model has the ability to incorporate 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 8 weeks and for the age groups >4 years to inform trends in incidence that are too recent to be captured by the data on deaths. In recent weeks we have been using these data, but do not include them in the analysis here due to the difficulty in resolving conflicting signals coming from the two datasets.
- The model now accounts for the ongoing immunisation programme, stratifying the population of people still susceptible to infection with the virus according to their immunisation status (unimmunised/1 dose/2 doses). We use data on the daily proportions of the population getting immunised to inform this splitting of the population, assuming that it takes three weeks for vaccine-derived immunity to develop .
- 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. More recently, the Kent variant of the virus has gradually become the predominant virus strain and we accordingly allow for a change in the IFR over the period in which the relative prevalence of this strain has been growing.
- The ‘Epidemic summary’ now only reports the current value for the IFR by age. To visualise how this has changed over time in our model, see the IFR tab in the ‘Infections and Deaths’ section of the report.
- 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.