Northern Covid-19 infection rate nearly double London's

Dominic Gilbert
Graphical map of the UK

Coronavirus infection rates in England's northern regions are now nearly double that in London, according to a new estimate.

The figures, from King's College London, suggest the daily rate of infection is sitting at around 11,000 across the UK, significantly higher than the 1,936 cases confirmed by Public Health England yesterday.

There is substantial regional variation within the UK according to the figures, which are drawn from the COVID Symptom Study, an app to track coronavirus symptoms that has been downloaded by 3.7 million people.

The mid-point of their current estimates for London is for 124 infections per million people, while in the North West the figure is 215 per million and in the North East and Yorkshire it is 225 per million.

It comes as members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage)  - which advises the Government on the Covid-19 response - have warned the easing of lockdown has come too soon and could cause a spike in the spread of coronavirus.

Further Telegraph analysis of official data shows that pockets of the UK are still grappling with high rates of infection, hospitalisation and Covid-19 deaths.

11,000 new daily infections

The current infection rate of coronavirus in the UK is not a known quantity, with the number of confirmed cases thought to be significantly lower than the number of actual cases in the community.

The latest figures from Public Health England show that 1,936 people were newly confirmed via a laboratory test as having Covid-19 on Sunday.

However, estimates from the COVID Symptom Study - a project being run by King's College London and ZOE - put the figure much higher at 11,300.

There is large regional variation in the UK's coronavirus epidemic

There is significant regional variation within this metric. London and the South of England are estimated to have the lowest infection rates in the UK with the current rate standing at as few as 82 infections per million people in the capital.

Meanwhile, the rate in Wales and Northern Ireland could be as high as 768 per million.

Even within England, the minimum infection rate is three times higher in the North East and Yorkshire than the South West - 157 and 52 respectively.

The North West alone could have as many as 2,000 new cases per day according to the study's upper confidence interval.

Hospitalisation remains high in pockets of the country

According to data published by COBR at the government's daily press briefing, the number of patients in hospitals with Covid-19 is falling across the UK. 

But the virus peaked earliest in London, and is taking longer to be expelled from the regions and devolved nations.

In the North West and Yorkshire the rate of patients in hospital is almost twice as high than in London when adjusted for population, as of May 30.

In Wales and Northern Ireland the rate is three times higher.

The peak in the number of Covid cases in hospital arrived in London on April 8, with 53.7 cases per 100,000 people. It has now fallen by 91 per cent to just 8.7.

Hospitals in the Midlands experienced their peak just two days later with 57.6 patients per 100,000 people. But seven weeks later, the number has only fallen 79 per cent - to 20.8 per 100,000.

In Wales the peak came significantly later - on April 25 with a rate of 42.7. The number is falling slowly, with a current rate of 33.2 cases - a fall of 69 per cent.

Death rates

Six of the ten highest death rates over the last three weeks of available data have been among communities in the North and Midlands, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

Some of the worst affected local authorities in the three weeks to May 15 include Stratford on Avon, with 53 deaths per 100,000 people, Carlisle at 47.8, and Hartlepool at 43.8.

It mirrors a trend away from the capital as the epicentre of Covid-19 has shifted in recent weeks.

Deaths per local authority

Middlesborough and South Lakeland have now seen higher overall death rates than the majority of London boroughs.

While Harrow and Hertsmere have seen the highest death rates from Covid-19 to date, the number has slowed to between 30 and 34 deaths per 100,000 over the last three weeks.

The huge variation in the prevalence of the virus across the country, and relatively high infection rates, prompted some members of Sage to publicly urge caution as the government pursued a relaxation of lockdown rules on Monday.

Professor John Edmunds, who attends meetings of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), warned that ministers are "taking some risk" by relaxing lockdown measures while the number of new cases each day remains "relatively high".

Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) which advises the Government on coronavirus, agreed lockdown measures are being lifted too early.

Sir Jeremy also said the newly-introduced NHS test and trace system needed to be "fully working" before measures were eased.

He wrote: "Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England. Agree with John & clear science advice.

"TTI (test, trace and isolate) has to be in place, fully working, capable dealing any surge immediately, locally responsive, rapid results & infection rates have to be lower. And trusted."