Proportion of people in England testing positive for coronavirus ‘showing early signs of increase’ - ONS

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<p>People travel through Waterloo railway station during the morning rush hour</p> (REUTERS)

People travel through Waterloo railway station during the morning rush hour

(REUTERS)

The proportion of people testing positive for coronavirus in England is showing "early signs of a potential increase" although rates remain low, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday.

Around one in 1,110 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to May 15 - up from one in 1,340 the previous week, according to the latest ONS estimates.

It comes after officials revealed cases of the Covid Indian variant of concern have jumped 80 per cent in London in a week to 720.

However, the increase suggest that the mutation, which scientists believe transmits significantly more easily than the Kent variant, is not spiralling out of control in the capital.

Announcing the latest results from its weekly Covid infection survey, the ONS revealed around 49,000 people in England had Covid-19 in the week ending 15 May - equating to around 1 in 1,110.

“The percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 showed potential early signs of an increase, though rates remain low,” it said.

Yorkshire and the Humber had the highest proportion of people of any region in England likely to test positive for coronavirus in the week to May 15: around one in 520.

In the North East it was one 840 and in the South East it was one in 1,210.

The South West had the lowest estimate at around one in 2,730. In London it was one in 1,000, unchanged from the previous week.

The trend was uncertain for all other regions in the same week, the ONS said.

Press Association Images
Press Association Images

But it added that rates were low in all regions and credible intervals were wide.

There were early signs of an increase in the percentage of people testing positive among those aged two to school year 6, 35-49 year-olds and those aged 70 years and over, although rates remain low across age groups.

Sarah Crofts, head of analytical outputs for the ONS Covid-19 Infection Survey, said: "This week there is a mixed picture of infection levels across the UK.

"Although we have seen an early indication of a potential increase in England, rates remain low and it is too soon to say if this is the start of a trend."

Downing Street said the emergence of a new variant of coronavirus in Yorkshire will continue to be monitored.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "There have been a number of variants throughout the pandemic and there will continue to be so. There are three mutations of the B1617 strain, as I think has been discussed previously, but as we do with all variants where we spot and identify them through our genomic sequencing programme, we will continue to monitor them and we will designate them as variants under investigation, and then variants of concern if we deem them to be of greater risk.

"But again, as you've seen throughout the pandemic, that's what we've done and we won't hesitate to put in measures that we think are necessary to try and tackle the transmission of any variants."

Asked whether the discovery of the new variant would have an impact on the next stage of restrictions lifting on June 21, the spokesman said the five-week gap between measures relaxing would allow the variant to be monitored.

He added: "As the Prime Minister has said, we will continue to look at all the statistical evidence and data, and we'll set out our plans as soon as the data allows."

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