Worried young help to slow spread of Covid-19

The rise in coronavirus cases in England has slowed as young people have been frightened into following social-distancing rules, officials believe.

Chris Smyth, Whitehall Editor | Francis Elliott, Political Editor www.thetimes.co.uk 

The trend appears to have been a key factor in helping the northeast to escape Tier 3 restrictions. Concern about “long Covid” has been suggested as one reason for the young changing their behaviour.

A key government “gold” meeting on the pandemic, chaired by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, was told yesterday that infection rates appeared to be falling among younger people, slowing the national surge in cases.

Although the government is “very cautious” about the trend, there is tentative optimism that a rise in cases after university freshers’ week has been driven down and younger people have changed their behaviour as deaths go up.

Cases are still rising in the over-60s and hospital admissions and deaths are expected to carry on rising as a result. However, after a rise in infections was seen in the young first, there are hopes that a fall in the same group could be followed by an easing of infections in older adults.

Analysis by The Times has found that student-dominated areas now have infection rates 2.5 times higher than elsewhere, down from five times higher two weeks ago.

Infections among teenagers in the northeast have fallen by about a sixth in the past two weeks, government figures show, and as cases level off in the region it is understood that talks on moving Tyneside and Teesside into Tier 3 have been “paused”.

The government believes that tighter measures imposed on the region a month ago are starting to have an effect: there were 276.1 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people in the northeast for the week to October 16, down from 316.6 the previous week. The prime minister’s spokesman said yesterday that the R rate in the region had “fallen slightly”.