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Nearly 250,000 people have COVID-19 in England, new study suggests
ONS infection survey estimates total cases have nearly doubled in a week
One in 240 people in country thought to be infected
There are nearly a quarter of a million people in England with the coronavirus, a major study has found.
An Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey, released on Friday, suggested there were 224,400 people with COVID-19 between between 25 September and 1 October, the latest dates for which data is available.
This was nearly double the 116,600 people with COVID the week before.
It means about one in 240 people in the country are thought to be infected.
The survey, which tests thousands of people in English homes whether they have symptoms or not, also found an estimated 17,200 people were being infected every day between 25 September and 1 October.
This suggests there are double the number of new cases in the community compared to those being captured by daily Department of Health data, which is based on lab-confirmed tests. This data had the seven-day average of new infections at 8,256 on 1 October.
The ONS said: “The estimate shows the number of infections has increased rapidly in recent weeks.”
A separate study by Imperial College London experts, also released on Friday, estimated the daily infection rate between 18 September and 5 October was as high as 45,000.
It comes as the government reportedly prepares to introduce a new three-tier local lockdown system to restrict the rapid spread of the virus in its second wave.
Under the system, areas will be subject to one of three sets of measures, with their severity depending on local infection levels.
They are expected to be announced on Monday before coming into force on Wednesday.
Later on Friday, scientists advising the government said the current “R” value – the number of people an infected person will pass coronavirus on to – for the UK is between 1.2 and 1.5.
This is down slightly on last week, when it was between 1.3 and 1.6.
However, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said it was “almost certain that the epidemic continues to grow exponentially across the country, and is confident that the transmission is not slowing”.
It added: “While the R value remains above 1.0, infections will continue to grow at an exponential rate.”
A record 17,540 daily lab-confirmed cases were announced on Thursday (9 October), though more testing is now being carried out compared to the first wave in the spring – and the government has said over 100,000 people a day were contracting the virus at the peak in April.
Meanwhile, Downing Street is continuing to face questions over NHS Test and Trace, which has just had its worst week for coronavirus contact tracing: one of the key methods to keep people safe from the virus.
On Thursday, it emerged that in the week up to 30 September – the most recent for which data is available – just 68.6% of close contacts of people who tested positive for COVID in England were reached and told to self-isolate.
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