Some 4,000 of the 6,791 neighbourhoods in England have vaccinated nine in 10 residents over 50. That’s home to more than 30 million people. Overall, 89 percent of over-50s had been inoculated by April 11. In about 4,600 areas there have been so few infections that health chiefs have hidden weekly case data to protect the privacy of the tiny number of residents still testing positive.
These postcodes could have had, at most, two new cases, potentially even zero in the seven days up to April 10.
Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, Oxfordshire, said: “Encouragingly, the prevalence appears to have fallen everywhere except perhaps the North-east, where it may have levelled off but this is uncertain.
“There is other good news. Prevalence in schoolchildren is falling. In the most vulnerable age group over 70, less than one in 1,000 are infected.
“Lockdown has worked as expected as has the vaccination campaign.”
He said vaccination was highly effective against the UK strain and would give some protection against rare new variants.
“Therefore the more people who are vaccinated here and overseas, the less chance we give the virus to mutate.”
But there is no room for complacency.
In London more than 500,000 people in Lambeth, Wandsworth, Southwark and Barnet have been offered tests after dozens of cases of a variant from South Africa was discovered.
Areas could face local lockdowns if surge testing fails to curb the spread.
However, the R number – the rate at which the virus reproduces – continues to shrink. When it is below 1, it means the epidemic is in retreat.
Estimated at being between 0.7 to 1, it means on average every 10 people infected will infect between seven and 10 others. Across Britain infections have fallen to the lowest level since the autumn.
Latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics reveal around one in 480 people in England had Covid in the week to April 10.
That’s down from one in 340 the previous week and the lowest since September 19, when the estimate stood at one in 500.
The drop in infection levels is in stark contrast to surging case rates elsewhere in the world. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, said coronavirus cases globally were rising at “worrying” rates.
And he added: “The number of new cases “is approaching the highest rate of infection that we have seen so far in the pandemic”.
Yesterday, a further 34 people had died within 28 days of testing positive, bringing the UK total to 127,225.