With the highest cases in Europe, UK should trigger Plan B now

September 16, 2021

This article has not been updated recently

According to ZOE COVID Study incidence figures, in total there are currently 47,276 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 down 9% from 51,876 new daily cases last week. 

In the fully vaccinated population, it’s estimated there are currently 15,493 new daily symptomatic cases in the UK. Cases in this group have now started falling with last week's figure being 17,674 (Graph 1). 

Across the different age groups, daily new cases in the 18-35 age group have fallen sharply over the past few weeks, but unsurprisingly, given the return of schools, the cases in 0-18 year olds are back on the rise (Graph 2) and rates in the over 50s are still steady or rising. 

Across the regions, many of the English regions are either falling or stable and in Scotland cases have stopped rising (Graph 3), although hospitalisations are still increasing. In terms of prevalence, on average 1 in 95 people in the UK currently have symptomatic COVID (Table 1). 

The UK R value is estimated to be around 0.9 and regional R values are; England, 0.9, Wales, 1.0, Scotland, 1.0 (Table 1) as cases continue to slowly decline. Prevalence in the regions shows that all regions are either falling or stable, apart from Wales, where prevalence is rising. 

According to the latest analysis from ZOE, it’s estimated that, at current rates, 781 people a day will go on to experience symptoms for longer than 12 weeks. This is the predicted Long COVID incidence rate (Graph 4). As the number of cases decline, so do the expected number of new Long COVID cases each day.

Graph 5 plots the ZOE prevalence figures alongside confirmed cases, which shows that the confirmed cases data is also showing the number of cases starting to fall. 

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 32,409 recent swab tests done between 28th August and 11th September 2021. 

Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Study app, comments on the latest data:
“After calling for a plan for several weeks I’m pleased to see the government has launched a booster vaccine programme. However, the blanket approach to give boosters to everyone over 50 ignores data from the ZOE COVID Study and analysis by King’s College London outlining the groups most at risk like frail adults, and those with complex health conditions or living in deprived areas. Even more importantly, the winter plan fails to introduce the current symptoms to the list. Sticking to the classic three ignores the fact that now most people experience symptoms like sore throat, headache and sneezing rather than fever or cough. I also don't understand why we are waiting for the situation to get worse and the NHS is pressured further before implementing simple measures that would help to bring down the number of new cases and save lives. With such high levels of virus in the population we should also still be wearing masks and keeping our distance in crowded public places, as in major European cities where cases are much lower than ours.” 

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 by age group 

Graph 3. Prevalence by region

Graph 4. Predicted Long COVID incidence over time

Please refer to the publication by Thompson at al. (2021) for details on how long covid rates in the population are modelled

Graph 5. A comparison of prevalence figures; ZOE COVID Study, and confirmed cases

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

Map of UK prevalence figures

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