April 8, 2020 / 1:24 PM / 2 months ago

Two weeks in, Britain's COVID-19 lockdown having an effect, study shows

LONDON (Reuters) - Data gathered from 2 million people in Britain using a new COVID-19 symptom tracker app suggests lockdown measures are slowing the spread of the disease, researchers said on Wednesday.

A UK government public health campaign is displayed in Piccadilly Circus, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

The rate of new coronavirus symptoms reported in Britain has slowed significantly in the past few days, the King’s College London scientists said.

Their latest figures suggest that around 1.4 million people in Britain aged between 20 and 69 currently have symptomatic COVID-19, a fall from 1.9 million on April 1, as some have recovered and fewer people report new symptoms.

The drop in new symptoms suggests that although the numbers of CVOID-19 patients being admitted to hospital are rising, as are the numbers dying, these should start to fall in about two weeks if social distancing measures are kept in place.

Official figures show Britain’s total hospital deaths from COVID-19 rose by 786 to 6,159 as of 1600 GMT on April 6.

Like many other countries hit by the pandemic, Britain has imposed strict social distancing along with shop and school closures. Introducing the measures more than 2 weeks ago, authorities also asked everyone to stay at home except for essential travel.

Tim Spector, who led the King’s team analysing the symptom tracker data, said the signs were “encouraging”.

“Even though hospital admissions and deaths are still on the rise, we hope that these figures offer a much needed light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Spector’s analysis comes after preliminary work by researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine published a week ago also showed that social distancing may already be working by dramatically reducing the number of daily contacts between people.

Spector said his data showed, however, that Britain’s larger cities like London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Liverpool “continue to have very high levels of symptoms in the community”.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Wednesday that Britain is in no position to ease the shutdown as the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak is still likely to be more than a week away.

Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Giles Elgood

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