New cases of covid-19 are rising again in Britain, according to studies that suggest the number of infections is doubling every week and that the rate of infection had passed a critical threshold.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, a government body, announced Friday that the “R number” for the entire United Kingdom had gone past 1 and may be as high as 1.2. This means, the group said, that “on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 10 and 12 other people.”
A separate study by another government body, the Office of National Statistics, released Friday, found that case numbers in England had soared to 3,200 each day between Aug. 30 and Sept. 5, a 60 percent increase over the week before.
The ONS study found that in recent weeks, the number of people testing positive for coronavirus between ages 17 and 34 was increasing, while the number of newly infected people 50 and older looked to be stable or falling.
An additional, a nongovernmental study by Imperial College London painted a worse picture, suggesting that the number of coronavirus cases in England may be doubling roughly every seven to eight days and that the R number may have been as high as 1.7 in late August and early September.
The Imperial study saw 150,000 swab tests undertaken to extrapolate the rate of infection for the rest of the country. The experts behind it said that they were seeing a reversal of trends in May and June, where infections were halving every eight to nine days.
Though Britain so far is not seeing the level of infections seen in spring, together, the studies may suggest that the rise in cases recorded in Britain cannot be attributed to the increased availability of testing alone.
“What we are seeing is evidence of an epidemic in the community and not a result of increased testing capacity,” Paul Elliott, director of the program at Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, said in a statement.