UK rates holding steady in spite of Indian variant

May 20, 2021

According to ZOE COVID Study figures, there are currently 2750 new symptomatic cases of COVID in the UK on average, based on swab test data from up to five days ago [*]. This indicates no significant change from last week, in spite of reports of the Indian variant causing an increase.

In terms of prevalence, on average 1 in 1796 people in the UK currently have symptomatic COVID. 

The risk varies by five fold depending on the region. The UK R value is 1.1 and regional R values are; England, 1.1, Wales, 1.1, Scotland, 1.1 (full table of regional results below).

According to the data, a small proportion of those who have been vaccinated still get infected. ZOE collected reports this week from 89 contributors who had an infection after two doses of the vaccine, and 100 who had an infection after one dose. The following approximate risk factors for infection based on one or two doses of the vaccination, and no doses, have been recorded using the latest ZOE data:

  • Current risk of COVID infection in unvaccinated: 1 in 17,205
  • Current risk of COVID infection after 1 vaccine dose: 1 in 31,184
  • Current risk of COVID infection after 2 vaccine doses : 1 in 41,579

The ZOE COVID Study incidence figures (new symptomatic cases) are based on around one million weekly reporters and the proportion of newly symptomatic users who have received positive swab tests. The latest survey figures were based on data from 6,005 recent swab tests done between 02 to 15 May 2021. The data excludes the lateral flow tests.

No great change in data despite Indian variant reports, localised reports only

There are localised outbreaks observed by ZOE this week. Here are the figures for the top regions with highest rates (cases/ 100,000) in descending order:

Table of regional COVID case rates


Vaccination rates are lower in some (but not all) of these regions including Scotland and the East of England according to ZOE vaccine data, where ZOE reports show  67.2% of contributors have been vaccinated.

Tim Spector OBE, lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Study app and Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, comments on the latest data:
“There has been no significant change in rates of COVID from last week according to ZOE COVID Study data. The number of daily new cases is around 2750, which remains fairly low and virtually unchanged from last week. This shows that the Indian variant hasn’t altered the numbers significantly.
We’re monitoring the Indian variant closely and so far we see only localised outbreaks, or hotspots. Not only in Bedford and Bolton, which we saw a week ago, but our data shows Newport in Wales, Glasgow and neighbouring areas like East Dunbartonshire or Lanarkshire in Scotland, Aberdeen, Leeds and neighbouring authorities like Kirklees and Wakefield too. We noticed the same trend previously with outbreaks of the South African and Brazilian variants, but these remained local and didn’t translate into wider cases countrywide. We also saw similar rates last summer in the Midlands which never produced widespread outbreaks. I expect to see rates stay at similar levels for a while. 
There’s no clear evidence yet that the new Indian variant is significantly worse than the old Kent one. While the outbreaks remain localised and UK numbers are steady and most cases appear mild,  it’s highly unlikely to cause the NHS to be overrun or stop us coming out of lockdown. So no need to panic, but do stay vigilant and keep logging with the ZOE COVID Study app to stay ahead of the curve and help us monitor outbreaks like these.”


The ZOE COVID Symptom Study UK Infection Survey results over time 

Daily new COVID cases over time

A graph comparing all surveillance surveys in England (ONS, REACT-1 & CSS)

Survey comparison graph


Map of UK prevalence figures

UK prevalence of COVID map


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