A major study has shown results that suggest COVID-19 infections in England have fallen by 30% during the current lockdown.
While cases are still high across England, most English regions that were initially hardest hit by the virus have shown more significant improvements than other areas. In the North West and the North East of England, infection rates have dropped by almost half of what they were before lockdown. The highest number of cases are now thought to be in the East Midlands and the West Midlands.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC the data did not mean the UK could "take our foot off the pedal just yet". Approximately 1 in 100 people have COVID-19, which is still double the numbers before September.
The React-1 study was based on a group of 100,000 participants who had swab tests done between 13 and 24 November. Imperial College London published the findings.
Researchers who conducted the study discovered that the R number for COVID-19 had fallen to 0.88, which means that the average COVID-19 case now translates to less than one new infection. This R number suggests infection rates are falling, and the epidemic is becoming smaller. Professor Paul Elliot led the study and told the BBC the findings were "encouraging signs" for England.
"These trends suggest that the tiered approach helped to curb infections in [the worst-affected areas] and that lockdown has added to this effect.”
He went on to offer caution, saying, "as we approach a challenging time of year, it's even more vital that through our actions and behaviours we all play our part in helping to keep the virus at bay."
"It's really important in the run-up to Christmas that we keep the virus under control."
Before the testing period in November, cases were growing rapidly, with numbers doubling every nine days, according to the same study's findings at the end of October. The increase in the infection rate has slowed, but statistics still suggest that cases double every 37 days.
A week into the second lockdown, which commenced on 5 November, stats showed that there was an uptick in cases. Experts say that this is due to the increased socialising that took place before the lockdown period.
Open University Statistics Professor Kevin McConway said, "Things have started moving in the right direction again, but we're by no means in the position we were at the end of the summer, or even the start of the summer. We can't stop taking great care yet by any means."