Fewer Britons are getting ill with Covid every day than at any point since a symptom-tracking study began last year, with fewer than 1,000 cases now cropping up daily.
Published figures estimating 971 cases per day are now lower than in July and August last year when lockdown rules were almost completely lifted even though no-one was vaccinated.
Using reports from a million users of a mobile app, the study suggested the number of new cases per day had dropped another seven per cent in a week following a 10 per cent fall the week before.
It has been tumbling for six straight weeks after a minor hiccup in March and adds to overwhelming evidence that coronavirus has all but disappeared in Britain.
‘Data continues to suggest Covid has stabilised at very low levels, similar to rates seen last summer,’ said Professor Tim Spector, the King’s College epidemiologist who runs the study.
In England the number of people developing symptoms each day remained the same as last week’s estimate at 756, but NHS Test & Trace data showed it falling again, down by eight per cent in the most recent week.
The official testing programme saw 15,593 positive results between April 22 and 28, down from 17,033 the week before and from a high of 390,000 people in the first week of January – and this is despite near-record numbers of tests being carried out.
And an Office for National Statistics report yesterday showed flu and pneumonia have become a more common cause of death than Covid for the first time in a year, with coronavirus now accounting for one in 38 fatalities.
Businesses and MPs have called for Boris Johnson to loosen lockdown rules sooner because the lockdown and jab rollout have been such a success, warning of another lost summer if there are delays, but the PM is refusing to budge.
The Covid Symptom Study estimates the number of people in the UK developing illness each day has fallen from 1,046 last week to 971
The Covid Symptom Study estimates the number of people in England developing illness each day is stable at around 750
Positive test reports from NHS Test & Trace labs show that around 15,000 people were diagnosed with the virus last week, down from a peak of almost 400,000 in a week in early January
The Covid Symptom Study is based on members of the public’s self-reported symptoms, test results and vaccinations that come through an app run by healthtech company ZOE.
It estimates that one in every 4,276 people across the UK has symptomatic Covid on any given day – around 15,669 people – and suggests the R rate is around one, meaning the outbreak is not clearly growing or shrinking.
COVID NOW ACCOUNTS FOR ONE IN 38 DEATHS
More people are now dying from flu and pneumonia than Covid in England and Wales for the first time since the second wave took off, official figures revealed today.
Office for National Statistics data showed the virus was mentioned on 260 death certificates that occurred in the week ending April 23 — down 30 per cent on the week before.
But Covid was only listed as the underlying cause for 176 of the victims. For comparison, flu and pneumonia was behind 278 deaths in the same seven-day spell but mentioned on 1,203 certificates.
Covid was the leading cause of death during the second wave, claiming more than 1,000 lives a day at the peak of the crisis in January.
Experts said a successful vaccine roll-out forcing down Covid deaths, combined with more mixing leading to a resurgence in pneumonia-causing infections was behind the trend.
ONS figures showed Covid only made up 2.6 per cent of all fatalities recorded in England and Wales two weeks ago, compared to more than 40 per cent at the peak of the second wave.
Three out of nine regions in England — North East, East Midlands and the South West — went at least one day without a single Covid fatality occurring over the latest week.
The researchers said they saw 31 vaccinated people who got coronavirus after two doses of a jab and 87 after a single dose, out of a total of 4,449 test results over the course of a week.
They suggested the risk of getting infected after being fully vaccinated was around three times lower than in an unvaccinated person and that only one in 167,000 people were likely to experience it at current levels.
Professor Spector said: ‘ZOE’s data continues to suggest that the UK is entering an endemic phase as Covid has stabilised at very low levels, similar to rates seen last summer.
‘Such low rates are forcing all studies to examine their data collection methods, but reassuringly the ZOE figures follow the trends seen in official confirmed cases.
‘With most adults now vaccinated in the UK, we’re seeing a milder form of COVID emerge with less than one third of people experiencing classic symptoms in the first week of the disease.
‘Even if people are vaccinated, they should be aware there are more than 20 symptoms of Covid, many of them mild and that they can get a test after logging these symptoms in the ZOE app.’
The Test & Trace report added that huge amounts of people are taking rapid tests without symptoms to try and reduce their risk of transmitting the virus by accident.
Just over 5.6million lateral flow tests were conducted in England in the week to April 28, down slightly from 5.8million in the previous week.
The number of lateral flow tests peaked at just over 7.6million in the week to March 17, which coincided with the return of secondary students to school.
Since April 9, everyone in England has been eligible for rapid Covid tests twice a week.
By contrast, 960,867 lab-based PCR tests – the higher quality ones reserved for people with symptoms – were conducted in the week to April 28.
The numbers add to growing evidence that coronavirus is under control and vaccines have started to keep down infections, hospital admissions and deaths after they were slashed by January’s drastic lockdown.
MPs, businesses and pubs and restaurants have called for lockdown to end sooner and even ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson is now optimistic that vaccines will squash the UK’s third wave of coronavirus and life in Britain will ‘feel a lot more normal by the summer’.
Professor Ferguson, the SAGE adviser and Imperial College London epidemiologist whose grim death toll predictions led Britain into its first lockdown last year, said this week that he expects jabs to help keep the UK out of lockdown for good.
He said on BBC Radio 4 this week: ‘Data on the vaccines is getting ever more encouraging, particularly when you get new data that was released just over a week ago which showed even if you do get infected [after having a vaccine] you are less infectious.
‘So that’s pushed our estimates of the scale of any autumn wave down.’