Britain is “worryingly close” to 100,000 new Covid infections per hour, according to the largest symptom-tracking survey in the country. This warning comes despite Government data showing that the outbreak is under control.

Researchers at King’s College London estimated that there were 92,953 people who fell ill with the virus per person in the UK last week. This is an increase of 14 percent over the previous seven days.

Although cases are increasing across all age groups with almost 44,000 infected daily, the highest proportion of cases is still in the under-18s.

The researchers also noted an increase in the rate of growth in the vulnerable age groups 55-75.

The latest survey data were based on approximately 43,000 PCR tests and lateral flow results that were conducted between October 9th and October 23rd.

Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist, is leading the study. He warned that the Government’s figures are a ‘big underestimate’, and may have missed 40% of cases.

The Department of Health’s daily reports only include cases confirmed by a PCR test — which are more reliable than lateral flow devices. They showed new infections fell for the fourth day in a row yesterday, dropping 10.6 per cent to 43,941.

Professor John Edmunds, an SAGE member, who had in July predicted that hospitalisations would exceed 3,500 per day by now in grim modeling, suggested that the decline in cases may be due to rising immunity among children.

The low numbers in official statistics have led to Government sources claiming that the chance of ministers activating their winter Covid “Plan B” is less than 20%.

King's College London researchers estimated there were 92,953 people falling ill with the virus on average across the UK last week, up 14 per cent on the previous seven days

King’s College London researchers found that the virus was infecting an average of 92,953 people across the UK, an increase of 14% over the previous seven days.



Cases are high in all regions of England and highest in the North West (purple line), where they are in excess of 2,000 per 100,000 people

All regions of England have high rates of cases, with the highest concentrations in the North West (purple-line), where there are more than 2,000 cases per 100,000. 

Whitehall sources claim that there is a less than 20% chance No10 will activate Plan B. However, the Whitehall sources state that cases in the ‘right direction. 

The chance of ministers activating their winter Covid ‘Plan B’ is less than 20 per cent, Government sources claimed today — but face masks might make a partial comeback in schools.

Despite warning last week that daily cases may rise to 100,000 this winter, Downing Street is thought to have taken confidence from the fall in national infections in recent days and optimistic forecasts by SAGE.

According to scientific advisers, the Government could see a natural decline in the epidemic next month without any curbs due to a combination of the booster vaccination rollout and the natural immunity of children.

According to a Whitehall source, today’s Financial Times report stated that the situation was moving in the right direction. He also said that there was a less than 20% chance that Plan B will be activated. 

Another senior Government official cautioned against complacency because it was too early to read too much into the data. They did concede that there is no reason to activate Plan B at the moment.

Professor Spector stated: “ZOE data shows that the UK could reach 100,000 new cases sooner then expected, and without any sign of a Plan B.

“The ZOE figures are consistently greater than the official confirmed daily case cases because we get results primarily from self-reported flow tests, which are not reported officially.

‘The government raw data report on PCR testing of classical symptoms only, which misses about 40% of cases.

‘ZOE extrapolates our data to predict daily infections in a larger population. 

‘With the confirmation of our estimates from the ONS’s fortnightly survey, it’s clear the government figures are a big under-estimate, and with the highest rates in Western Europe, there’s no room for complacency.’

The ZOE data estimates the UK R rate is around 1.1 — meaning the outbreak is growing — with an average of one in 56 people becoming ill with the virus.

The number of cases is high in England in all regions, and the highest in the North West where they exceed 2,000 per 100,000. In total 11,182 people — one in 48 —per day in the region were infected last week.

The South West saw the greatest increase in cases, rising from approximately 1,250 to around 2,000 per 100,000 people in a single week. One in 51 people was infected with the virus.

Covid prevalence in Wales is still high, with more that 2,250

Professor Spector said, “We now know that masks provide protection. Wearing them in crowded places and on public transport is a good idea.” 

“Avoiding unventilated, crowded events is one thing, as well as working from home. 

“Finally, staying home and getting tested when you feel sick is key. 

‘There’s a lot of cold and flu out there making it harder than ever to tell the difference between a harmless cold or Covid. 

“However there are signs that could indicate Covid, such as loss of taste or smell. 

‘If you feel ill, always check by taking a quick and easy Lateral Flow Test, even if you think it’s just a cold.’

Yesterday, Professor Edmunds stated that the increase in infections in recent months was caused by a large number of cases in children. According to health officials, the virus was present in as many as 12 children in England last week. 

Professor Edmunds stated that the increase in infections would eventually lead to a high level of immunity in children, which will cause cases to plateau and then fall. He suggested that it may be possible that we’re already achieving that. 

The 50,000 barrier was breached by Daily Covid infections in the UK last week. It prompted medical unions, some scientists and Labour to call for Plan B — mandatory face masks, work from home guidance and vaccine passports — to be implemented immediately in a bid to control infections.

SAGE has done optimistic modelling and predicted that infections could fall to the 5,000 mark in the coming months. This is even without No10 giving in to their demands or resorting to any virus-control interventions.

Scientists believe that a combination of booster vaccinations, natural immunity growing in children, and a decrease in classroom mixing during the October half term break would bring down cases. 

According to data from the Department of Health, Covid cases in schoolchildren have risen to a peak. This is a positive sign that they may soon fall in other age categories that they are passing on the virus.

Its figures are published based on when people took their test and not when they received their results. Experts believe this is more reliable since it accounts for reporting delay.