Covid cases may have peaked for this year, says King’s College London

Covid cases in the UK have peaked for 2021, real-world data from King’s College London (KCL) suggests.

Researchers behind KCL’s Zoe Covid Study said that on average one in 53 people in the UK currently has symptomatic Covid – down from one in 56 from the previous week.

But the World Health Organisation warned that Europe is on track to see 450,000 deaths by February as it again becomes the epicentre of the pandemic.

Countries including Germany, Croatia, Russia and Slovenia have reported record numbers of new cases, while hospitals in Romania and Belarus are on the brink of collapse amid a surge in new Covid admissions. 

Eastern Europe is being hit hard by a combination of the highly infectious delta variant, lifting restrictions "too soon" and having low vaccination rates.

However, the number of daily new UK cases is showing a clear decline among those 18 and under, with most other age groups showing signs of levelling off – although cases among 55 to 75-year-olds are climbing.

Map of UK’s seven-day Covid-19 infection rate, by local authority

KCL researchers said there are currently 88,592 new daily symptomatic cases of Covid in the UK on average, according to test data from up to five days ago – down 4.7 per cent from the previous week.

Prof Tim Spector, the lead scientist on the study, said: "It’s great that we’re finally seeing cases start to come down, and hopefully we’re over the last great peak of Covid in 2021.

"This is driven in large part by declining cases in children who have been on half-term holidays and by high rates of previous infection, but we’re hopeful that the trend will continue."

The Zoe data is always a week ahead of other surveys and is often seen as an "early warning signal" for Covid incidence in Britain. Prof Spector said booster jabs, coupled with face masks and social distancing in high-risk areas, were "our way out" of the pandemic.

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: "The suggestion that Covid cases have probably peaked for 2021 is likely to be correct.

"As was reported in the past few weeks, most but not all of the models for Covid presented to Sage have suggested that the epidemic would peak in late October/early November before declining towards the end of the year."

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