LONDON (Reuters) - The average daily number of COVID-19 cases in England has doubled in a week, a survey showed on Friday, as scientists warned that action was needed to avert a calamitous and unnecessary spike in deaths.
New cases of COVID-19 in England were around 17,200 per day in the latest week to Oct. 1, compared to 8,400 per day in the previous week, an infection survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, while another population survey said daily infections could be as many as 45,000.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking to tackle a second wave of COVID-19 with local measures in an effort to avoid another national lockdown.
But the surveys, which feed into government decision-making, paint a bleak picture, and government scientists warned the epidemic was still growing despite a dip in the reproduction number.
“We are back to choices faced in the March ... Don’t act slower than the speed of the epidemic,” Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust and member the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said in a tweet.
The ONS said an estimated 224,400 people in England had COVID-19 in the latest week, or 1 in 240 people, a 92% increase in infections compared to the previous week.
The ONS looks to estimate infection numbers in the community beyond those who have been tested, giving an estimate of prevalence that is unaffected by testing capacity.
Another population study, run by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, showed that 1 in 170 people in England had the virus between Sept. 18 and Oct. 5, with 45,000 new infections each day.
“Our robust findings paint a concerning picture of the growing epidemic across England,” said Paul Elliott, of Imperial’s School of Public Health.
“While certain areas are worse affected, if left unabated then infection trends will follow nation-wide and could lead to high levels of unnecessary death and illness from the disease.”
The United Kingdom reported 13,864 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday, down a fifth from a day earlier.
Additional reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Stephen Addison
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