Despite the UK being in lockdown, evidence suggests that community infections are still increasing, highlighting concerns about whether current measures are sufficient to reduce the pressure on a stretched NHS.
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According to Imperial College London, infections between 6th - 15th January were up 50% compared to early December. 1.58% of the population had the virus in January compared to 0.91% in December.
Nationwide, 1 in 63 people were infected with coronavirus in the first half of January, but this is thought to have reached as high as 1 in 20 in some London boroughs.
The increase in infections under lockdown observed by Imperial College London contradicts the government's figures, casting doubt over the effectiveness of current lockdown measures.
Whilst ministers have stated the figures do not reflect the impact of lockdown, Imperial College London's Professor Paul Elliott said the current lockdown does not seem to be having the same impact as the first.
He warned that the decline in infections needs to accelerate if we’re to reduce pressure on the NHS, saying, "We're seeing this levelling off, it's not going up, but we're not seeing the decline that we really need to see given the pressure on the NHS from the current very high levels of the virus in the population.”
Infection figures collected by Imperial College London are seemingly at odds with the government's stats, collected through the Test and Trace system.
Whilst official Covid infection rates have shown a drop in the last few days, Imperial College London researchers argued their data is more up to date and that the official figures are likely only showing a decline over the Christmas period.
People’s activity has increased after Christmas
It may well be that our movement and activity has increased after Christmas, and that this is now increasing infection rates once more.
This comes amidst news of crowded tube trains as people head back to work, which prompted ministers to call for staggered start times in the construction industry to reduce commuter numbers.
The current lockdown is broadly similar to the first lockdown that we experienced in March.
However, infection and death rates are both much higher now than they were then, or have been at any time during the pandemic.
Scientists and researchers have indicated that people are taking this lockdown less seriously than the first and that the government needs to step in to tighten measures.
University College London’s Professor Robert West stated the current lockdown rules are "still allowing a lot of activity which is spreading the virus".
Professor Susan Michie, a member of SAGE, agreed that more people were being allowed to go to work than during the first lockdown, nurseries are open and children are visiting school more regularly - all of which contribute to the lesser effect of the current lockdown compared to the first.
TFL said that tube and bus usage demand is 18% and 30% of usual levels compared to before the pandemic. In March, demand dipped below 10%, highlighting how more people are using public transport now despite coronavirus deaths reaching an all-time high in the UK.