Number of positive COVID tests plunges to lowest level for 6 weeks

Connor Parker
·4-min read
The number of positive cases has been falling sharply in recent days as the lockdown in England starts to make a difference. (PA)
The number of positive cases has been falling sharply in recent days as the lockdown in England starts to make a difference. (PA)

Positive coronavirus cases in England have dropped by 28% from the previous week, the latest figures show.

A total of 110,620 people tested positive for COVID-19 in England at least once in the week to 25 November, according to the latest NHS Test and Trace figures.

This is down 28% on the previous week and is the lowest total since the week ending 14 October.

The latest figures show the lockdown in England has helped reduce COVID infections across the country.

England returned to a tier system on Wednesday after its month-long lockdown.

The tiers are much stricter than their previous iterations, with 99% of the country effectively in the old Tier 3 restrictions or even tighter controls.

England returned to a harsher tiered system of coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday after the month long lockdown ended. (PA)
England returned to a harsher tiered system of coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday after the month long lockdown ended. (PA)

England’s COVID-19 test and trace system also saw a boost in their percentage of people reached after they stopped trying to contact under-18s separately to ask them to self-isolate if a parent says they will tell their child.

After weeks near a record low of around 60% of contacts of positive cases being successfully traced, 72.5% of the 246,604 people identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the week to 25 November were reached.

In a statement released by the Department of Health, they said the move to relying on parents informing their children rather than test and trace was an “operational improvement” that had resulted in an increase in the proportion of contacts reached.

The Department of Health said it was a parent or guardian’s legal duty to inform the under 18s in their care they needed to self isolate.

A total of 54.2% of people who were tested for COVID-19 in England in the week ending November 25 at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit – a so-called “in-person” test – received their result within 24 hours.

This is up from 50.7% in the previous week and the highest proportion since the week to 2 September.

Boris Johnson had pledged that, by the end of June, the results of all in-person tests would be back within 24 hours.

The prime minister told the House of Commons on 3 June that he would get “all tests turned around within 24 hours by the end of June, except for difficulties with postal tests or insuperable problems like that”.

The news comes as the first doses of the approved coronavirus vaccine are due to arrive in the UK on Thursday as the government gears up to roll it out to those who need it most.

Watch: Jonathan Van-Tam 'hopeful vaccines are going to make big impact'

Read more: COVID-19 'will be defeated by the spring' following vaccine rollout, government says

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, confirmed the jab from Pfizer and BioNTech – approved by the UK medicines regulator on Wednesday – will hit UK shores in “hours, not days”.

The UK became the first country in the world to give the go-ahead to the vaccine, paving the way for vaccinations to start next week.

The country has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer jab, enough to vaccinate 20 million people with two doses, given 21 days apart.

Health sSecretary Matt Hancock has said 800,000 doses of the jab will arrive next week, while BioNTech chief commercial officer Sean Marett confirmed the UK is likely to receive at least five million doses by the end of the year – half of its initial 2020 order due to a production scaleback.

Read more: England's 53 hospital hubs which will deliver the COVID-19 vaccine next week

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises ministers, has recommended care home residents and staff should be the top priority.

There are problems with the Pfizer jab as it need to be kept at -70C, presenting another logistical hurdle and making it particularly hard to break up into small batches and send to care homes.

Pfizer and BioNTech have said the jab can be sent to care homes as long as it travels for no more than six hours after it leaves cold storage and is then put in a normal fridge at 2C to 8C.

It is hoped that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, if approved by the regulator, will allow for easier administration on a mass scale as it can be stored at normal fridge-like temperatures.