More than 600k had COVID in week before lockdown but rate of increase now slowing, ONS data shows

·3-min read
LONDON, Nov. 5, 2020 -- A man wearing a face mask walks on the London Bridge backdropped by the Tower Bridge shrouded in fog in London, Britain, on Nov. 5, 2020. British lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of the government's a month-long lockdown for England by 516 votes to 38, a majority of 478.    The vote outcome paved the way for the new measures, announced by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday in a bid to quell the surging coronavirus infections. (Photo by Han Yan/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Han Yan via Getty Images)
A man wears a face mask in central London. The latest ONS infection survey shows more than 600,000 people had COVID in the last full week before the lockdown. (Han Yan/Xinhua via Getty Images)
  • Nearly 620,000 people had COVID in England in week up to Saturday (31 October), ONS survey finds

  • This was the day Boris Johnson announced four-week national lockdown, which was then imposed on Thursday

  • Survey also finds one in 90 people in England were thought to be infected

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Nearly 620,000 people in England were infected with coronavirus in the last full week before the national lockdown was imposed, a major study has found.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey, released on Friday, suggested there were 618,700 people with COVID-19 between between 25 and 31 October, the latest dates for which data is available.

This was up from 568,100 people estimated to have had COVID the week before, and 433,300 the week before that. The ONS said Friday’s increase is “less steep compared with previous weeks”.

The new figures mean about one in 90 people in the country were thought to be infected.

The survey, which tests thousands of people in English homes whether they have symptoms or not, also found an estimated 45,700 people were being infected every day between 25 and 31 October: the day Boris Johnson announced the four-week lockdown. It was imposed on Thursday.

The prime minister had said on Saturday that “we must act now to contain this autumn surge”.

The day before, however, it had emerged Johnson had already known for two weeks that England’s second COVID wave was outstripping the “worst-case scenario” of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

The top scientists had also been calling for a two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown as early as 21 September.

Watch: These are the exceptions for going outside during England's second national lockdown

The latest ONS estimates of 45,700 infections a day means there could have been double the number of new cases in the community compared to those being captured by daily Department of Health data on lab-confirmed tests.

This official government data had England’s seven-day average of new infections at 19,208 on 31 October, which was the cut-off point for the new ONS data.

The latest data comes after Boris Johnson said people should be able to have “as normal as Christmas as possible” if they follow the lockdown measures, which are set to last until 2 December.

He told a Downing Street press conference on Thursday: “If we follow this package of measures in the way that we can and we have done before, I have no doubt people will be able to have as normal a Christmas as possible and that we will be able to get things open before Christmas as well.”

Watch: Boris Johnson insists four-week lockdown will be enough

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