Lockdown clearly not working in some areas of England, experts warn

·4-min read
London, United Kingdom - November 15 2020: Detail of a Sorry We're Closed sign in a restaurant window in Central London during the second national lockdown in England.
Experts have suggested that lockdown is not proving effective in many parts of England (getty)

England’s nationwide lockdown is ‘clearly not working’ in some regions, experts have said.

Experts at the ZOE Covid Symptom Study app found that in some areas of England, positive tests have still been increasing this week.

Principal investigator Tim Spector said in a tweet on Friday: “ZoeCSS predicts 34,000 new cases daily in U.K. and R =1 overall with falls in Five areas - rise in Midlands and East and London and South pretty flat over last week. Lockdown clearly not working in some areas and most drops occurred before lockdown - so regional view needed.”

Spector added in a statement: “The reason we are now seeing an overall R value of 1.0 in England is because numbers are falling in the North, rising in the Midlands and East but staying flat in the South of England. The continued rise in the Midlands, despite national lockdown is concerning.”

He said in order to drive the rate of infections down, the government should be focussed on improving compliance with the rules at a regional level instead of a national one.

The estimated number of peoplke with COVID-19 has risen in five parts of England, according to a panel of experts (ZOE CSS/Tim Spector/Twitter)
The estimated number of peoplke with COVID-19 has risen in five parts of England, according to a panel of experts (ZOE CSS/Tim Spector/Twitter)

The data reinforces a picture which shows that while the national rate of infections may appear to flattening, the picture is more complicated when broken down into regions.

Earlier today, the health secretary Matt Hancock said there were “promising signs” the current lockdown in England was working.

“I’m calling it a flattening rather than a fall because one swallow doesn’t make a summer,” he said. “But there are promising signs that lockdown is working to get the number of cases under control.”

On Friday, figures published by the Office for National Statistics estimated that 664,700 people in England had coronavirus, equating to around one in every 80 people.

The survey, which tests thousands of people in English homes, found an estimated 38,900 new infections per day in the week of 8 November to 14 November, the most recent dates for which data is available.

The figures also suggest the overall national infection rate for England is similar to the week before, but that there are “substantial” regional divides.

Analysing the data, Professor James Naismith, from the University of Oxford, said: “The ONS data continue a run of data suggesting that the number of new infections is now beginning to fall.

Watch: Matt Hancock says government is ‘working on a plan for Christmas’

“These numbers would be the first where we might hope to see the national lockdown beginning to impact.”

Yesterday, a report by Public Health England (PHE), which looks at the latest testing data up until November 15, revealed that while some areas of England have seen a decline in the number of positive tests since restrictions were reintroduced, in other areas not much has changed.

The report found that in the first and second week of the November lockdown, positive tests continued to rise in the South West, the South East, London, the West Midlands and North East.

England went into a second nationwide lockdown at the start of November and it is due to be lifted on 2 December, with a return to some form of tiering similar to before.

When he announced the lockdown, Boris Johnson said the measures were necessary to stop the NHS from being overwhelmed after the number of cases in England began to soar.

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The government is currently looking at whether or not to relax lockdown rules over Christmas for a few days. Sage adviser Dr Susan Hopkins said on Wednesday that the country would likely need to go through five days of tight restrictions for every one day of looser controls over the festive period.

On Friday, Hancock said there would need to be some rules in place at Christmas but that he was keen for people to have “some joy” after a tough year.

“We do hope over Christmas to agree a set of rules across the UK, because so many people travel around the UK, and that work is ongoing,” he told the BBC. “But there will have to be rules in place.”

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