While there are signs of encouragement in numbers of positive tests, concerns remain over the emergence of new coronavirus variants.
The i newsletter latest news and analysis
This week a new mutation detected in Bristol was designated as a “variant of concern,” with a separate strain in Liverpool under investigation.
How many Covid cases are in my area?
The overall rate of positive Covid-19 tests continues to fall across the UK, with 190.6 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days up to Friday 5 February.
This is well down from the peak of Monday 4 January, which coincided with the announcement of nationwide lockdown measures, when the figure was 642.
However, England’s coronavirus rate remains comparatively high at 202.5, ahead of Northern Ireland at 165.2, Scotland at 118.6 and Wales at 118.3.
The Midlands are the worst hit areas, with the West Midlands reporting a figure of 258.5 and the East Midlands 240.5, just ahead of the North West at 238.4
London, which previously reported very high rates, has fallen to 204.2, but the South West remains the least-affected region by some distance at 131.3.
Rutland is now the local authority tier with the highest Covid rate, reporting 518.4 new cases per 100,000 people, a figure attributed to a surge among prisoners at HMP Stocken.
Walsall and Sandwell have the highest rates in the West Midlands at 432.6 and 409.2 respectively, while Birmingham and Wolverhampton remain above 300.
There are still areas with particularly high rates in the North West, such as Corby at 432, St Helens at 364.9 and Knowsley at 356.6.
While there are fewer cases in the North East generally, Middlesbrough remains a concern with a rate of 356.8, wihle Sunderland reported 301 new cases per 100,000 people.
The worst-affected London boroughs are found in the west of the capital, with Ealing, Hounslow and Hillingdon all above 300.
Devon, by contrast continues to be comparatively Covid-free – Exeter’s rate is 29.7, North Devon is 24.7 and Torridge’s figure is now down to 22 per 100,000 population.
What are the fears around new Covid variants?
The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) categorised the Bristol strain as a “variant of concern” after surge testing was introduced for 24 postcodes in the area.
Officials said 15 cases of the concerning variant have been discovered there, with a further four cases in Manchester and two more in Wales.
Both the Bristol and Liverpool variants contain the E484K mutation, a genetic change found in both the South African and Brazilian strains – experts have suggest this may make it better at evading the human immune response.
The Liverpool strain is deemed less concerning because the mutation is combined with original coronavirus, rather than the Kent variant which forms the basis of the Bristol version.
Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins described the relatively slow rise in cases of new variants as “reassuring,” but warned controlling them would be much more challenging as lockdown is relaxed.
Professor Nick Loman, a leading member of COG-UK, the group of scientists monitoring the genome of the virus, said it was “plausible” that the new Bristol variant would have an impact on vaccines.
— to inews.co.uk