UK virus cases rose after recent easing of rules - survey

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jul 31 2021 05:56 AM

UK virus cases rose after recent easing of rules - survey 1
People walk past the Bank of England during morning rush hour, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in London, Britain, July 29, 2021. Henry Nicholls, Reuters

LONDON - Coronavirus case numbers increased more than 15 percent across England in the most recent week measured, according to a weekly infection survey released Friday, after the government relaxed virus curbs.

The figures for the week ending last Saturday contrast with the health ministry's daily testing data, which registered dramatically declining cases during much of last week.

The recorded halving in new daily cases, which has since gone into reverse, surprised officials and experts who had predicted the July 19 removal of remaining pandemic rules would prompt a surge in infections.

However, the latest survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) -- which is seen as more reliable as it randomly samples the population -- suggests cases may not have fallen and that daily testing failed to detect many new infections.

It showed cases in England rose by an estimated 114,500 or 15.4 percent to 856,200, with all but two of the country's nine regions showing increases.

Meanwhile, cases also climbed in Wales and Northern Ireland, but dropped in Scotland.

All three devolved governments are easing their own virus restrictions at a slower pace than England. 

Watch more on iWantTFC

The discrepancy between the daily case numbers and the ONS survey could be explained by various factors, according to experts.

They noted the start of school summer holidays earlier this month meant mass testing among pupils ended.

And millions of Britons getting told to self-isolate by contact tracers, after coming into contact with someone infected, may have altered behavior, and led some to avoid getting tested.

The government is set to allow fully vaccinated adults to avoid 10 days of self-isolation if contacted by tracers from August 16. But for now, whole swathes of retail and industry are reporting staff shortages.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for caution earlier this week after Britain registered falling case rates for seven consecutive days, while officials have warned the long-term situation remains uncertain.

However, Johnson has argued that a successful vaccination campaign -- which has seen 71 percent of adults fully jabbed -- allowed for the full relaxation of legal curbs in England.

The move has attracted widespread criticism, with fears the state-run National Health Service could again come under severe strain from rising caseloads, even if far fewer people are now dying of COVID.

Hospitalizations have continued a months-long climb in recent weeks, with more than 6,000 people currently requiring care -- the highest level since mid-March. 

RELATED VIDEO

Watch more on iWantTFC