COVID still rising after restriction-free summer

September 2, 2021

This article has not been updated recently

According to ZOE COVID Study incidence figures, there are currently 57,158 new daily symptomatic cases of COVID in the UK on average, based on PCR and LFT test data from up to five days ago [*]. This is up 10% from  51,961 new daily cases last week. 

In the fully vaccinated population, it’s estimated there are currently 17,342 new daily symptomatic cases in the UK, cases in this group have been rising steadily for the last week and now make up 30% of all new daily cases (Graph 1). 

New cases are rising rapidly in the 0-18 year olds and at the current rates will soon overtake the number of new daily caes in the 18 - 35 years old, which has been the dominant group throughout the third wave (Graph 2). This trend is likely to continue as all schools in England return this week. 

Graph 3 plots the ZOE prevalence figures alongside confirmed cases, which shows that the uptick in cases is also being seen in the government confirmed cases.  

The ZOE data is always a week ahead of the other surveillance surveys and continues to work as an early warning signal, so it is expected that the recent rises will soon be reflected in the ONS and REACT-1 figures (Graph 4). 

In terms of prevalence, on average 1 in 90 people in the UK currently have symptomatic COVID (Table 1). 

The UK R value is estimated to be around 1.0 and regional R values are; England, 1.0, Wales, 1.2, Scotland, 1.2 (Table 1) confirming that cases are on the rise in almost all regions of the UK. 

Cases in Scotland have been on the rise for the past few weeks and in particular this week, the ZOE data highlights how cases are rising rapidly in school age children (0-19 years old). The rise in cases appears to be linked to ending of summer holidays (Graph 5) 

According to the latest analysis from ZOE, it’s estimated that, at current rates, 969 people a day will go on to experience symptoms for longer than 12 weeks, this is the predicted Long COVID incidence rate. As daily new cases continue to rise so will the number of cases that turn into Long COVID (Graph 6), a debilitating condition that puts huge pressure on healthcare services. As the numbers continue to rise in the younger generations, particularly school aged children, this means the number of children who will go on to experience long-term COVID symptoms will continue to grow. 

Research published today in Lancet Infectious Diseases, from King’s College London using data from the ZOE COVID Study shows that adults who have received a double vaccination are 47% less likely to have long COVID should they contract a Covid-19 infection. This is further evidence to support vaccination as it not only protects against infection but of those that do get infected, from experiencing long lasting symptoms. 

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 27,922 recent swab tests done between 14th and 28th August 2021. 

Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Study app, comments on the latest data:
“The UK has enjoyed a restriction-free summer unlike most of Europe and even though a large majority of UK adults are now vaccinated, the rise in cases, as well as hospitalisations and deaths  is one of the highest in europe. This is evidence that without at least some restrictions COVID will continue to spread. Fully vaccinated people are getting COVID, but not only are they often unable to spot the signs of infection due to the government’s outdated list of symptoms, we’ve seen evidence that the protection provided by vaccines is wearing off. To help stop the spread, it’s still important for more of us to act responsibly by wearing masks in public, particularly in crowded places, washing our hands regularly, and trying to distance ourselves from others where possible.
The sharp increase in cases in Scotland following their return to school in August is a real concern, especially as children in England and Wales are now heading back. It’s likely that England and Wales will follow suit, helped by superspreader festival events, making it ever more likely that the summer wave will continue into the autumn. The question is - how high do numbers of cases and hospitalisations have to get before we recognise that COVID-19 remains a real threat?”

Graph 1. The ZOE COVID Study UK incidence figures results over time; total number of new cases and new cases in fully vaccinated

Graph 2. Incidence figures by age groups

Graph 3. A comparison of prevalence figures; ZOE COVID Study, and confirmed cases

Graph 4. A comparison of prevalence figures; ZOE COVID Study, and other COVID surveillance studies

Graph 5. Prevalence by age group in Scotland

Graph 6. Predicted Long COVID incidence over time

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

Map of UK prevalence figures

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