England's decline in Covid infections is slowing down - here's what it means

The rate of decline of Covid-19 cases appear to have slowed in England (Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

New figures suggest that the rate of decline of Covid-19 infections in England has slowed, with experts urging the public to continue to stick to lockdown rules to give the vaccination programme “the best chance of working”.

The study found that one in every 213 people are still testing positive for Covid-19, and that in some parts of the country, the rate of decline has stalled - and in some places, there are hints that rates are increasing.

The study tested over 163,500 people across the country between 4 and 23 February, and found that around one in 204 people are currently infected - or 0.49 per cent of the population.

‘Don’t want to risk a rise in infections’

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT programme from Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “The fall in infections our study has observed since January demonstrates that national public health measures are working.

“But these new findings showing that some areas are experiencing apparent growth reinforce the need for everyone to continue to stick to the rules and help keep infections down.

“At this critical time, with lockdown soon to be eased, we need to make sure that our behaviours don’t risk a rise in infections which could prolong restrictions, which we all want to avoid.”

‘Cause for concern’

Hancock said: “There is some cause for concern that our hard won progress may be slowing down, and even reversing in some regions so it is important that we remain vigilant - this is on all of us.

“We have set out a cautious but irreversible approach to easing restrictions, but until we reach each milestone we must all remember the virus is still here, and still dangerous.

“Please continue to stay at home - practise hands, face, space - and get your jab when you receive your invite so we can bring down infections further.”

‘We need to get the infection rate lower’

Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London, said between January and February there was a “substantial drop” in cases across all regions of the country.

He added: “The prevalence of swab positivity in England continues to fall, but the rate of decline has slowed and there are some areas where prevalence may be increasing.

“In London, the rate of decline certainly appears to have stopped and there is a possible signature that it may be going up.”

Speaking about the vaccine programme, Riley said: “If we want the vaccination technology and rollout to give the most people the best chance then we do need to get the infection rate lower for a little bit longer.

“What we need is to keep infections really low so that people who will get offered a vaccine three or four weeks from now or six weeks from now don’t get infected just before they are offered a vaccine.”