More than 1 million people still have COVID as weekly infections flatten in England

Emily Cleary
·3-min read
LONDON, Jan. 26, 2021 -- People wearing face masks walk past ambulances at The Royal London Hospital in London, Britain, on Jan. 26, 2021. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain has surpassed 100,000 after another 1,631 have been confirmed, according to official figures released Tuesday. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 100,162, the data showed. (Photo by Han Yan/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Han Yan via Getty Images)
More than one million people in England had the coronavirus last week, the latest data reveals (Xinhua/Han Yan via Getty Images)

The number of people in England with coronavirus last week remained higher than one million, official figures have revealed.

During the week ending 23 January - the latest date for which data is available - the Office for National Statistics estimates that 1,018,700 people in England were infected with COVID-19. This equates to one in every 55 people, the same estimate as the previous week.

In London, the area with the highest percentage of people testing positive, one in every 35 people is thought to have been infected.

Infection rates appear to have levelled off in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, according to the report, but the new variant of the virus is gaining pace in the East Midlands.

ONS data published on Friday (ONS)
ONS data published on Friday (ONS)

The report says: “The percentage of cases that are compatible with the new variant increased in the East Midlands in the week ending 23 January; rates were relatively stable or declining in all other regions.”

Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford, said that today’s release from ONS was “not good news”.

“Whilst cases are clearly down from their peak over the last two weeks the decline may have stopped,” he said. “Next week will confirm this.

A man walks past a sign displaying the measures imposed by the government against the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on the first day of a newly imposed lockdown, in London, Britain, November 5, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley
England is currently under its third national lockdown to try to halt the spread of coronavirus (REUTERS/John Sibley)

“The prevalence of infection rates remain high and this will translate to a high number of deaths in the weeks ahead.

“The new variant has as we feared proven very difficult to suppress with UK lockdown measures. With over 100,000 dead, I realise the certainty of thousands more deaths is bleak news.

“Families and friends will have paid an awful price for the failure to suppress the virus.”

It comes at the end of a challenging week for the prime minister, who gave a sombre press conference on Tuesday in which he said he was “deeply sorry” after the UK death rate hit 100,000 coronavirus cases.

Watch: Over 100,000 people have died with coronavirus in the UK

Read more

What you can and can't do under current lockdown rules

The ONS figures are produced in partnership with the University of Oxford and based on data collected from private households.

The website states that the data cannot be used for ‘measuring the number of cases and infections in care homes, hospitals and/or other institutional settings’.

Government data for the same period suggests that overall the number of infections in England is dropping. These figures are published using results from all laboratory and lateral flow tests processed, including those from care homes and hospitals.

Government data for the same period, produced using tests from laboratories as well as lateral flow tests in the community, suggests a drop in infection numbers overall (Gov.uk)
Government data for the same period, produced using tests from laboratories as well as lateral flow tests in the community, suggests a drop in infection numbers overall (Gov.uk)

The UK has seen all schools, hospitality venues and non-essential shops closed since 4 January, and people ordered to stay at home. Restrictions in in England last officially until at least 15 February however, the prime minister’s announcement on Tuesday that schools will not be considered for reopening until 8 March means these measures will stay in force for at least three weeks longer.

The UK has the fifth highest COVID death toll in the world and, according to the latest figures, is where 1 in 7 of all COVID deaths in Europe have taken place.

The government has also been at pains to stress that restrictions will be lifted gradually, meaning it could be well into the second half of the year before many of the rules are relaxed.

Prof Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics, The Open University, said: “The news isn’t particularly encouraging, though it could be worse.”

Watch: What is long COVID?