‘Early signs’ show spread of coronavirus in UK could be slowing, says leading professor

Owl was alerted, yesterday, to encouraging “anomalies” in the infection rate data by Owl’s knowledgeable friend. Today Professor Neil Ferguson,  epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said he believes the “epidemic is just about slowing in the UK right now” as a result of lockdown measures.

Prof Ferguson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In the UK we can see some early signs in slowing in some indicators, less so in deaths because deaths are lagged by a long time from when measures come in force. This would indeed be excellent news.

 Owl’s knowledgeable friend was looking at the official Covid -19 case, recovered and death data published on this dashboard. The friend, however, cautioned against publishing anything just yet for a number of reasons.

There is now one more data point. On 27 March the daily increase of cases was 2.9k (see below as to why this might be high). Since then the three successive days have had totals of: 2.5k; 2.4k and 2.6k, essentially stable – a pattern not seen before. Not doubling every three days. Caveats apply:

Three or four days ago the baseline for the data was changed so as to align the data from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Now the data is published at 2pm GMT every day. During this realignment some daily rates reported corresponded to a reporting period of much less than 24 hours, followed the next day by a daily rate covering anything up to 36 hours. So there was an artificial low followed by an artificial high in the very recent data

UK testing rates are low, probably confined to only the most serious hospital cases, and are therefore proxy measures for real infection rates . The numbers of Covid-19 confirmed cases reported daily will in some degree relate to how much testing is being conducted. The result is that comparing daily infection rates at a time when testing is supposedly being ramped up, isn’t quite comparing like with like. Ramping up testing is likely to confirm more cases. However, Owl’s friend noticed yesterday a run of falling rates in the past three days. 

Given the assumed incubation period of 7-14 days it might be a bit early to see any change caused by a “lockdown” imposed only a week ago, especially since the metropolitan hot spots took time to comply

Professor Furguson, though, mentions hospital admissions which might be a more stable proxy measure. So cautious optimism.

Lizzy Buchan Political Correspondent @LizzyBuchan www.independent.co.uk 

Early signs show the spread of coronavirus could be slowing down in the UK, one of the top scientists advising the government has said.

As Britons were warned that restrictions could stay in place for six months, Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said he believe the “epidemic is just about slowing in the UK right now” as a result of lockdown measures.

Prof Ferguson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In the UK we can see some early signs in slowing in some indicators, less so in deaths because deaths are lagged by a long time from when measures come in force.

“But if we look at the numbers of new hospital admissions per day for instance, that does appear to be slowing down a little bit now.

“It’s not yet plateaued so still the numbers can be increasing each day but the rate of that increase has slowed.”

Prof Ferguson said the epidemic was spreading at different rates in different parts of the country, with up to 5 per cent of the population in London likely to have been infected.

“It is quite clear across the country, the epidemic is in different stages in different parts of the country,” he said.

“In central London it could be as many as 3 per cent to 5 per cent of the population has been infected – maybe more in individual hot spots. In the country as a whole in the UK, maybe 2 per cent or 3 per cent.”

He said antibody tests to determine if people have had the virus, which are currently in final stages of validation, would “hopefully” be available in days……..

 

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