COVID infections increased as soon as England left national lockdown for three-tier system, study finds
Estimated cases jumped 85,800 – or 17.8% – in a week
It comes ahead of Christmas relaxation of rules... and Boris Johnson refusing to rule out a third national lockdown
Coronavirus infections increased by nearly 18% during England’s first full week back in the three-tier system, a major study has found.
The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey, released on Friday, estimated there were 567,300 people in England with COVID-19 between 6 and 12 December.
This is up 85,800 – 17.8% – from 481,500 infections between 29 November and 5 December. The national lockdown ended on 2 December, when the three-tier system came into effect.
It will raise further questions about the effectiveness of the localised system ahead of the planned easing of restrictions over Christmas.
Boris Johnson has also refused to rule out a third national lockdown after the easing of restrictions over the festive season.
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The ONS survey tests thousands of people in English homes whether they have symptoms or not.
The result – 567,300 estimated infections in the community – is the equivalent of 1.04% of England’s population, or one in 95 people.
The study was released one day after swathes of areas in the East and South East were moved from Tier 2 into the most severe Tier 3 following a spike in infections and hospitalisations.
London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire had also been moved into Tier 3 earlier in the week as an urgent response to the continuing spread of the virus.
It means a total 38 million people in England – 68% of the population – are being subjected to the toughest possible restrictions on their freedom.
Following a brief downturn in daily UK-wide cases after England’s national lockdown ended, numbers have started to spike again in the past week.
On Thursday, a record 35,383 infections were recorded, though this included 11,000 from Wales which were not recorded in official figures between 9 and 15 December due to a computer glitch.
Nonetheless, the seven-day average of daily UK infections was 22,982 on Thursday (17 December), up from 16,235 on 10 December.
However, the government is pressing ahead with its Christmas plan to allow a five-day easing of restrictions between 23 and 27 December, when three households will be allowed to mix.
Health chiefs have continued to warn against this, with even the prime minister repeatedly saying the rules are not a “target” to aim for.
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, has warned the easing of the rules could lead to an “unrelenting tsunami” of cases in the New Year.
She said ministers should give “fresh and more detailed” advice to the public with a week to go until Christmas.
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