Has the Covid tide turned? Why it's too early to say for sure

With rising optimism that cases were on a downward turn, inevitably came the question on many lips – are cases really falling, or are we just doing fewer tests?

Daily reported cases had declined for seven consecutive days until an upward shift on Wednesday (28 July).

The past week of Covid data had raised hopes that the UK may have reached the peak of its current wave of infection.

Scientists have of course counselled caution, but what could be described as a sustained drop in cases prompted optimism that the tide could be turning.

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But with that optimism inevitably came the question on many lips – are cases really falling, or are we just doing fewer tests?

As NationalWorld reported yesterday (28 July), there has indeed been a decline in the number of people taking PCR tests, which exactly matched the rate of decline in overall cases.

Correlation of course doesn’t equal causation though, and how are we to know that the inverse is not true – that fewer people with symptoms means fewer people taking tests?

The positivity rate – that’s the proportion of people taking PCR tests who get at least one positive – has shot up in July, and continued climbing even when the number of cases fell.

It is more than double the 5% limit set by the World Health Organisation for judging whether the pandemic is under control.

Figures released yesterday evening showed a drop in the seven-day positivity rate.

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But with that came data showing the number of cases reported in the latest 24-hour period had risen, ending a run of seven consecutive days of decline. If that increase carries through into the coming days, that could mean we see another rise in the positivity rate.

You can find out which areas of England currently have the highest positivity rate here.

It is far from an even picture across the UK. In England, 293 out of 315 council areas saw a drop in cases among people tested in the week to 23 July.

In Scotland, 27 out of 32 areas saw a decline and in Wales it was 20 out of 22.

But all 11 councils in Northern Ireland saw a rise over the same period.

The councils are all in the top 13 areas in the UK for the percentage increase in cases over the latest week, with Belfast’s cases rocketing by 63% to give it the fourth highest rate of cases per 100,000 people.

One thing’s for sure – it is too soon to be sure about anything.

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