The next fortnight will be “crucial” in identifying whether the slight drop in the rate of new daily cases of Covid-19 is a “false peak”, an epidemiologist has warned.
The UK recorded a further 36,389 cases on Friday, representing a fall for the third consecutive day.
But Professor Adam Kucharski of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine cautioned that it was too soon to say if the country had reached the peak of its third wave of the pandemic.
“It’s always good to see some early signs, but I think those are early signs,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“We’ve seen false peaks before. What’s happened in Scotland recently with schools closing slightly before England and cases coming down, that may well be the same effect coming into play in England with better weather.”
Prof Kucharski also warned that data showing the effects of the end of legal restrictions and reopening of the economy in England on Monday are yet to emerge.
“The next week or two is going to be crucial to know if this is genuinely a slowdown of a potential peak or if we’ve got more transmission to come,” he said.
Asked about the “pingdemic”, Prof Kucharski said vaccines are enabling people to interact, but there remained an “awful lot” of Covid in the country.
He cited figures that show coronavirus rates among people in private households in England are at their highest level since January, with one in 75 people infected – a rise from one in 95 in the previous week.
“If you go out and you have contact, it’s very likely you’ll be near someone who’s got the virus,” he added.
The coronavirus reproduction number, or R rate, in England remained unchanged from last week at between 1.2 and 1.4.