With Covid cases in the UK currently higher than in parts of Europe combined, we’re dangerously close to hitting the milestone of 100,000 new daily cases.
That’s according to scientists from the Zoe Covid Study, which is based on regular data inputted by users of its symptoms app. The study is reporting higher” levels of Covid in the UK population than official government figures.
There are currently 92,953 new daily symptomatic cases in the UK on average, based on Zoe’s PCR and lateral flow test data from up to five days ago – which is an increase of 14% from 81,823 new daily cases last week.
Even among the double vaccinated, cases continue to rise with a current estimate of 26,927 new daily symptomatic cases. On current averages, 1 in 56 people in the UK currently have symptomatic Covid.
The Zoe figures are “consistently higher” than the government’s confirmed daily case numbers, says Prof Spector, because they include self-reported lateral flow tests that are under-reported officially.
“The government raw figures report on PCR testing of the classical symptoms only, which miss around 40% of cases,” he said, adding that Zoe’s estimates look set to be confirmed by the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics fortnightly testing survey.
“It’s clear the government figures are a big under-estimate, and with the highest rates in Western Europe, there’s no room for complacency,” Prof Spector said.
According to the Zoe data, cases are rising across all age groups, and while the proportion remains highest in the under 18s, in the past week there has been an uptick among the most vulnerable age group (55-75), who are at greater risk of needing hospitalisation. While cases remain high in all regions, there has been a notably steep rise in the South West of England.
Meanwhile, Zoe’s predicted long Covid incidence rate currently estimates that, at current case rates, 1,490 people a day will go on to experience symptoms for longer than 12 weeks .
The Zoe Covid Study figures of new symptomatic cases are based on reports from around 750,000 thousand weekly contributors and the proportion of newly symptomatic users who have received positive swab tests.
The latest survey figures were based on data from 42,795 recent swab tests done between October 9 and 23.
“It’s clear the government figures are a big under-estimate, and with the highest rates in Western Europe, there’s no room for complacency,” says Prof Spector.
“With the UK government delaying any decision while hospitals fill up, it’s time to take matters into our own hands to address the worsening situation. Public action has worked in previous waves to reduce rates before lockdowns.”
So, what can we do to keep cases down?
Get your vaccine
Prof Spector encourages those who are not already vaccinated to get their jabs – and for all those eligible for a booster vaccine to get one now.
“Zoe data has shown vaccine protection is waning and boosters will further cut the number of vaccinated people (who make up almost a third of daily cases) getting infected,” he says.
Wear a mask
Mask-wearing and caution around crowds also plays a part, he says. “We now know that masks add a layer of protection, so wearing them on public transport and in crowded places is a good idea. Avoiding unventilated crowded events is another, as well as working more from home.”
Take a test
Finally, staying at home and getting tested when you feel unwell is key. “There’s a lot of cold and flu out there making it harder than ever to tell the difference between a harmless cold or Covid,” says Prof Spector.
“However, there are some symptoms that are very telling of Covid, particularly loss of smell and taste. If you feel ill, always check by taking a quick and easy lateral flow test, even if you think it’s just a cold.”