London‘s second wave of coronavirus had already started to slow down before the national lockdown forced workers to stay at home and high street shops to pull down the shutters, official data suggests.
More than half of the capital’s 32 boroughs — including the three hotspots of Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kingston upon Thames — saw infections fall in the week ending October 30.
The city’s overall infection rate also declined from 152 to 146 cases per 100,000 people over the same period, according to weekly data from Public Health England.
The stark figures raise questions over whether London and its nine million residents could have been spared a second lockdown, had over-zealous officials kept their fingers off the panic button for another more week.
Officials possess only two weeks of accurate infection data from when the city’s Tier Two restrictions — banning households mixing indoors — were imposed. But experts say it can take at least three weeks before it becomes clear whether the restrictions have driven down the rise in infections.
Liverpool, Lancashire and Manchester — all previously under the toughest Tier Three curbs — also saw sharp falls in infection rates, sparking suggestions the Government’s knee-jerk reaction came too soon and should have been delayed. Boris Johnson even admitted yesterday that the Tiers were working before the crunch vote.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said ‘thanks to the efforts of Londoners we are seeing initial signs that the increase in infections across the capital has started to slow down’ but he warned cases still remained high and the number of patients in hospital continues to rise. Data shows there are currently only 990 people in hospital with Covid-19 in London, miles away from the almost 5,000 infected patients on wards at the peak of the first wave.
Conservative London mayor candidate Shaun Bailey said Mr Khan must now ‘stop demanding more restrictions’, warning Londoners ‘won’t forgive him if their favourite restaurants and businesses fail to make it through the restrictions he shouted so loudly for’.
The mayor was slammed for his over-zealous decision to push the city into Tier Two, while other regional authorities fought with the Government to negotiate concessions.
The figures come after Professor Tim Spector, lead of the Covid Symptom Study app, said yesterday he thought the UK’s second wave of the virus had ‘already peaked’ while other experts decried the restrictions and said that it was clear Tier Three was working.
This slidey reveals the change in infection rates between the week October 24 to 30 (right) and the week October 16 to 23
Ealing, a former hotspot of infections in the capital, recorded the fifth biggest fall in the number of infections
London has 990 people in hospital with coronavirus at present. This is miles away from the almost 5,000 people in hospital with the disease at the peak of the first wave
THE 19 BOROUGHS OF LONDON WHERE CASES HAVE DROPPED
Kingston upon Thames
Kensington and Chelsea
Hackney and City
Richmond upon Thames
As many as 19 out of London’s 32 boroughs recorded declines in their number of new infections in the week ending October 30, according to the Department of Health’s coronavirus dashboard.
Kingston-upon-Thames saw the biggest drop, after the borough’s infections fell by 28 per cent from 368 to 264. Their seven-day Covid-19 case rate currently stands at 148.7 cases per 100,000 people.
Hotspot Ealing recorded a 16.4 per cent decline in its number of infections, from 769 to 643. Its overall infection rate dropped to 188.1 per 100,000.
The second biggest fall in infections was in Kensington and Chelsea, where they fell 21.4 per cent, and Camden, where they fell by 18 per cent.
Only four boroughs saw their number of infections rise by more than 10 per cent in the week ending October 30, compared to 11 that saw infections drop by more than 10 per cent.
The number of tests completed in the capital has barely changed over the last few weeks, revealing that the drop in infections is unlikely due to a fall in the number of tests completed.
As many as 596 were processed every day between October 28 and 22, the latest period where data is available, compared to 608 in the week before, data from Public Health England reveals.
In four out of eight London boroughs where more tests were completed the number of infections dropped, adding further weight to suggestions from official figures that the city’s second wave is slowing down.
A spokesperson for Sadiq Khan said: ‘Thanks to the efforts of Londoners we are seeing initial signs that the increase in infections across the capital has started to slow down, however cases remain high and the number of patients in hospital and on ventilators continues to rise.
‘That’s why it’s crucial that all Londoners play their part and follow the Government’s latest restrictions. We must follow the public health guidance if we are to bring R below one again, reduce case numbers and protect the NHS.
‘The Mayor urges Londoners to keep doing all they can to protect each other and once again make the huge collective sacrifice now in order to prevent even greater suffering later.’
Kingston-upon-Thames recorded the sharpest drop in the number of new infections in the capital
And Kensington and Chelsea recorded the second sharpest drop, official data from Public Health England suggests
TIER 3 IS WORKING: INFECTION RATES DECLINE LIVERPOOL
England’s three-tier lockdown strategy was bringing down coronavirus cases in badly affected areas, according to official data that raises questions about whether the national intervention is really needed.
On the eve of the country’s second national shutdown, on which MPs will vote later today, government statistics show that tough measures already in place appear to be working and thwarting the spread of the disease, calling into question the need for the new rules.
Numbers of people testing positive in hotspot areas such as Liverpool, Merseyside, Manchester, Lancaster and Blackpool have levelled off or even started falling in the weeks since the areas entered local lockdowns.
Almost 10million people living in the North of England were under Tier Three restrictions, which effectively banned socialising in person.
In Liverpool, which was the first city to enter Tier Three, on October 14, the average number of people testing positive each day almost halved from 3,447 on October 7 to 1,828 on October 29.
Nearby Knowsley saw the same trend, with average daily cases dropping from 1,102 on October 9 to 637 per day by the 29th.
Other areas in Merseyside saw the same effect, with a shift in the outbreak’s trajectory from sharp increase to definite decline in the middle of October.
In nearby Manchester, which followed suit into Tier Three not long after, delayed by Government wrangling over financial compensation, cases also appear to have turned.
Cases plummeted at the start of the month from a high of 3,226 per day on October 3, to 2,363 on the 16th, but have since risen again but started to fall once more. The up-and-down figures suggest at least a stabilising of the outbreak there and the most recent numbers are trending downwards.
London Mayor candidate Shaun Bailey accused Mr Khan of using the virus crisis to excuse his failures on crime, Transport for London, housing and the economy.
‘Sadiq Khan must now stop demanding more restrictions and start supporting businesses,’ he said.
‘Coronavirus is not an excuse for his failures on crime, TfL, housing and the economy. Londoners won’t forgive him if their favourite restaurants and businesses fail to make it through the restrictions he shouted so loudly for.’
He added: ‘Lives and livelihoods are my priority. So I’m pleased that the rate of infection has fallen in London.
‘I’m also pleased that the Prime Minister has been clear: “without a shred of doubt”, lockdown will end on 2 December.’
Confirmed cases are only indicators of the level of the disease, as thousands of people will never show any of the tell-tale symptoms and other people may choose not to get a test.
The data is also impacted by testing because changes in the number of tests done in an area will impact the number of cases reported.
Despite the drop, however, London is continuing to see more residents hospitalised due to the disease.
A further 198 patients were in hospital with coronavirus in the capital in the week ending November 3, when the number rose to 990 from 792.
The number of patients on ventilators also rose by 27, from 118 to 145. But this is still nowhere near the levels seen at the peak of the first wave – or those currently seen in the North West.
The decision to lockdown was determined by the number of patients in hospitals and models warning the health service could be over-run.
The number of infections provide a proxy for whether the country is heading towards tighter restrictions or a lockdown, but do not on their own make the case.
Chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said in a committee meeting with MPs this week: ‘It is difficult to be absolutely confident about how far their effect (the tiered systems) has gone. I am confident Tier Two has had an effect and that Tier Three has had a bigger effect. I am confident of that.
‘The communities in the North and Midlands in particular, obviously London, too, went into a Tier Two and some parts of eastern England, too, have responded remarkably to this. And because of that, I am confident the rates are substantially lower than they would’ve been if this had not happened.
‘But the early indications we have at the present is that this has not achieved getting the R below one – it has brought it much closer to one – but it is still doubling over a longer period of time.’
What’s the fall in infection numbers in my borough?
London Borough where cases were recorded
Barking with Dagenham
Hackney and City of London
Kensington and Chelsea
Change in number of cases to October 3
Percentage increase or decrease
Infection rate per 100,000 in the London borough