The region of England where COVID infections are increasing

Matilda Long and Emily Cleary
·4-min read
A social distancing sign is seen at the entrance to Manchester Piccadilly station is seen amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Manchester, Britain, November 11, 2020. REUTERS/Molly Darlington
ONS figures have suggested that the number of coronavirus infections is again rising in the North East (REUTERS/Molly Darlington)

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus is rising in the North East, according to data published on Friday.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its weekly infection survey report on Friday which confirmed that levels of transmission are levelling out across most of England.

Figures for the week ending 20 March - the latest dates for which information is available - showed that around one in 340 people in England were infected.

In Wales the figure is less, at around one in every 450. Scotland has the highest percentage of its population carrying the infection at around one in every 240, and Northern Ireland returned numbers of approximately one in every 320.

The ONS said the "modelling suggests that the percentage of people testing positive in England is likely to have levelled off in the week ending 20 March".

The chart below shows the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in each region of England

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However, the percentage of people testing positive with COVID-19 has increased in the North West, and there were early signs of an increase in Yorkshire and The Humber.

The percentage of people testing positive decreased in the South and the East of England, although the rate was said to have declined more slowly in London, the West Midlands, and the South West over the two weeks up to 20 March.

Professor Lawrence Young, Professor of Molecular Oncology at Warwick Medical School, said it was "inevitable" that infections would start to level off and even increase, as lockdown restrictions began to be lifted.

Professor Young referred to the data as reflecting the impact of students returning to school, particularly in Wales and Scotland where schools went back earlier than in England.

Read more: What you can and can't do under current lockdown rules

"Every change as we slowly release from lockdown is likely to have an effect on the levels of infection," he said. "This is why the roadmap is taking a cautious approach – leaving gaps between each relaxation so that the impact on infections can be carefully monitored.

"We need to remain vigilant particularly keeping an eye on local outbreaks and increases – as evidence by increased infections in the North West, Yorkshire and The Humber.

"While vaccination and the current lockdown are clearly bringing down overall infection levels, there’s no room for complacency as we lift further restrictions.

"We need to continue the pace of vaccine rollout, effectively spot and stamp out local outbreaks, and prevent compromising the situation by stopping the importation of virus variants.”

Watch: UK vaccine rollout faces first challenge

While the number of infections may be levelling off and even rising in some places, the number of deaths in the UK within 28 days of a positive COVID test has been steadily falling since mid-January, thought to be a result of the country's mass vaccine rollout.

An analysis carried out by The Guardian, using data from the official government dashboard, showed that from 24 January to 12 February deaths from coronavirus in England among those over 80 fell by 62%. This compares with a drop of 47% among people aged between 20 and 64 and 51% among those aged 65 to 79.

Yesterday data from PHE revealed a gap was opening up in England between the south and the rest of the country.

It showed no area of the south having more than 45 cases per 100,000 people.

Nowhere in the rest of the country had anywhere fewer than 65 cases per 100,000.

More than 30 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to government figures and on Friday Robert Jenrick told Sky News that despite supply concerns, the government target of having vaccinated all adults with their first dose by July is still on target.

"We do have enough supply in sight to continue to meet our obligations," he said.

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick speaks to the media after visiting the Al-Abbas Islamic Centre in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, which is acting as a Covid-19 vaccination centre. Picture date: Saturday January 23, 2021. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick has said the UK vaccination programme is on course to offer a first vaccine to all adults by July (Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)

Earlier, the housing and communities minister had told the BBC that while rates of vaccinations may slow in coming weeks, there was no cause for alarm.

“We have less supply than we might have hoped for the coming weeks but we expect it to increase again later,” he said.

“The vaccine rollout will be slightly slower than we might have hoped but not slower than the target. We have every reason to believe that supply will increase in the months of May, June and July.”

On Monday, the head of the World Health Organization launched an attack on vaccine rollouts in wealthier countries, branding the race to protect their entire populations at the expense of those in poorer countries "grotesque”.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was “shocking” how little rich countries have done to avert a “catastrophic moral failure” that he previously warned of in January.

Watch: How England will leave lockdown