The 1 region where COVID infection rates could have started increasing again

Matilda Long
·3 min read
'COVID-19 Keep Apart' sign on Oxford Street, London.Most businesses remain shut in the UK as the nation continues to battle with the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Overall infections in the UK dropped for another week, according to the ONS. (Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The coronavirus infection rate is falling in every region of the UK except for the South West, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The percentage of people testing positive in the South West rose from 0.91% to 1.12% in the week ending 6 February, the most recent date for which data is available.

While the ONS cautions that small movements where infection levels are low should be interpreted with caution, the figures raise questions over why infections in the region are not falling in line with the rest of the country.

Over the same time period, the percentage of people testing positive in London fell from 1.85% to 1.5%.

London continues to have the highest proportion of people estimated to have COVID, with around one in 60 people testing positive in the most recent week, according to ONS modelling.

The ONS estimates that 790,000 people in the UK had coronavirus in the week to 6 February, down from 965,000 the previous week.

Between 31 January and 6 February, an estimated one in 80 people in private households in England had COVID-19 at any one time, compared to one in 85 in Wales, one in 75 in Northern Ireland and one in 150 in Scotland.

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While the figures paint an overall positive picture, the data shows the difficulties in keeping the new, more infectious variant, under control.

Although overall infections dropped, the number of cases compatible with the new UK variant rose in Yorkshire and The Humber and the East Midlands.

Infections from the new variant also rose in the South West, where overall infections increased.

While lockdowns are having a clear impact in driving down infections, experts are warning that numbers are still to high to consider lifting lockdown.

Government advisor and Sage member Sir Jeremy Farrar warned on Thursday that daily coronavirus cases need to fall dramatically before Boris Johnson can consider easing lockdown measures.

He said the ONS weekly numbers would need to fall below 50,000, a far cry from today's figure of 790,000, before the government should lift restrictions.

Sir Jeremy said: "The transmission rate is incredibly high still and we’ve got to get it lower, we’ve got to get it – in my view – into the single thousands before we can possibly think about lifting restrictions.”

Downing Street said ministers “will look at the data in the round” when it comes to decisions on easing restrictions.

Boris Johnson has promised to reveal his plan for easing lockdown on 22 February. He is expected to go forward with his plan to reopen schools on 8 March, with rules on outdoor socialising expected to be eased next.

Watch: Coronavirus cases falling across all four UK nations