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Officials are optimistic of overall positive trend of infections across the UK

Nasal swap taken by medical technician in protective gear. 20, August, 2020. ((AFP)

Despite the large spike in the number of positive tests reported by England's test and trace service earlier, the level of coronavirus in the community has remained stable during the past week according to the Office for National Statistics.

SAGE, the government’s scientific advisory group, now estimates the growth rate for the virus in the UK could be between -3 and +1. This means the number of new infections is somewhere between shrinking by 3 per cent and growing by 1 per cent every day.

Whitehall is hopeful that, taken as a whole, the data is indicative of a positive trend of infections in the country.

The official view is that the infection is currently focused among young people, who are less likely to become seriously ill, which is why the number of hospital admissions and deaths have not yet increased. A similar pattern was seen in the USA before the second significant spike in deaths.

Effective and timely containment of local outbreaks as they occur is now seen as vital in preventing the UK experiencing a national growth in the virus and a potential second nationwide lockdown later this autumn.

SAGE has announced that it was likely to take two to three weeks for the infections to result in increased hospital admissions and deaths.

It said: “The figures published today more accurately represent the average situation over the past few weeks rather than the situation today.

“Models that use Covid-19 testing data that have less of a time delay, have recently suggested higher values for R in England.

“For this reason, SAGE does not have confidence that R is currently below one in England. We would expect to see this change in transmission reflected in the R and growth rate published over the next few weeks as we gain more certainty of what is currently happening.”

The ONS on Friday published data which showed that an estimated 26,600 people in England had contracted COVID-19 between 7 and 13 of August. This translates into roughly 0.05% of the population, or one in 2,200 individuals. These estimates are, broadly speaking, unchanged  from the previous figures for August 3 to 9, which suggested 0.05 per cent of the population and one in 1,900 individuals was infected.

On average, 2,400 people per day were becoming infected with Covid-19 during the week ending 13 August, which is lower than the previous ONS estimate of 3,800 new infections per day in the previous week.

However the ONS said there was not yet enough evidence to say for definite that there has been a fall in new infections in the most recent week adding "we continue to report that the incidence rate for England has levelled off."

The estimates do not take into account people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.

The ONS said that while recent figures had suggested the percentage of individuals testing positive for Covid-19 had risen slightly in July, this trend had levelled off over the past two weeks.

Yesterday results from the test and trace service in England reported the number of positive cases had jumped by almost a third in a single week, with fewer people being tested.

Officials had warned there was a gentle creeping up of the virus in recent weeks.

In Wales, an estimated 1,300 people in private households had Covid-19 between August 7 and 13 - the equivalent of 0.04% of the population, or around one in 2,400 people.

The estimate is broadly unchanged from the previous weekly figures of 0.04% and around one in 2,500 people.

In Scotland, no new coronavirus deaths were reported in the past 24 hours.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said 19,605 people had now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 71 from the day before. She said 10 of these new cases were in the Grampian health board area, 16 in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, with four in Lanarkshire.

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