Were we turning a corner when Boris hit the gas?

Tim Spector’s studies have correctly spotted the turning points in the evolution of the pandemic in the UK so far. So is this another one or is it something to do with the sample?

New cases plateau ahead of Freedom Day


According to ZOE COVID Study incidence figures, it is estimated that among unvaccinated people in the UK there are currently 17,581 new daily symptomatic cases of COVID on average, based on PCR test data from up to five days ago [*]. A decrease of 22% from 22,638 last week. Suggesting that the wave in the unvaccinated population has now peaked in the UK. The overall number of estimated cases is 33,118 which remains similar to last weeks which was 33,723.

Comparatively there are currently 15,537 new daily symptomatic cases in partly or fully vaccinated people, an increase of 40% from 11,084 new cases last week. With cases in the vaccinated group continuing to rise, the number of new cases in the vaccinated population is set to overtake the unvaccinated in the coming days. 

In terms of prevalence, on average 1 in 142 people in the UK currently have symptomatic COVID (Table 1). 

The UK R value is 1.0 and regional R values are; England, 1.0, Wales, 1.1, Scotland, 0.9 (Table 1). Across the regions, it’s a mixed picture. New cases in the North East and East of England are still rising but in Scotland cases are now falling. In Wales cases remain relatively low and are rising very slowly. The rest of the UK reflects the overall picture, which is one where cases have stopped in their tracks for now.

According to the ZOE COVID Study there are an estimated 550 cases of Long COVID a day among unvaccinated people in the UK. This is calculated by using the estimated number of daily new cases from ZOE and the rates of long COVID from the latest research on risk factors for long COVID [ref] and adjusting for age differences. This figure is smoothed, see Graph 2. 

The ZOE COVID Study incidence figures (new symptomatic cases) are based on reports from around one million weekly contributors and the proportion of newly symptomatic users who have received positive swab tests. The latest survey figures were based on data from 10,303 recent swab tests done between 26 June and 11 July 2021. The data excludes lateral flow tests.

Tim Spector OBE, lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Study app and Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, comments on the latest data:

“We are seeing the overall incidence rates plateau in the UK with an R value of 1.0, which is good news. But the rate of decline may be slower this time, as many of the restrictions in place previously will end. The numbers are still high with around 1 in 142 people with COVID, so we’ll keep a close eye on numbers and the effect of the Euro Football Championship in the coming days and weeks. Interestingly, comparing the UK globally, we are starting to see cases in the rest of the world catching up. This is probably due to the Delta variant taking hold, and the relative success of the vaccine roll out in the UK as well as vaccination rates slow in other countries. In the UK, new cases in vaccinated people are still going up and will soon outpace unvaccinated cases. This is probably because we’re running out of unvaccinated susceptible people to infect as more and more people get the vaccine. Whilst the figures look worrying, it’s important to highlight that vaccines have massively reduced severe infections and post-vaccination COVID is a much milder disease for most people. The main concern is now the risk of Long COVID.”

Graph 1. The ZOE COVID Study UK Infection Survey results over time 

Graph 2. Long COVID incidence in the UK

Table 1. Incidence (daily new symptomatic cases)[*], R values and prevalence regional breakdown table 

Map of UK prevalence figures