Scientists tracking the spread of coronavirus in England say infection levels in the community may have risen at the start of the latest lockdown.
Swab tests indicate 1.58% had the virus during the period 6-15 January, with the highest level, 2.8%, in London.
The Imperial College London researchers say there was “no strong evidence” of these high infection levels.
The past few days have seen a clear slowdown in the number of lab-confirmed cases reported daily by the government.
But the Imperial College London researchers say their data – based on swab tests from 143,000 people across England, of which nearly 2,000 were positive for the virus – is more up to date because it does not rely on those being tested developing symptoms and then waiting to have their infections confirmed by a laboratory.
Before the Covid rules were tightened when the national lockdown came into effect on 6 January, the restrictions faced by people in England varied depending on where they lived.
The researchers say the government’s latest daily case figures may reflect a drop in cases just after Christmas, which is only now being registered.
And they suggest infection levels may have gone up in early January as a result of people’s activity increasing after the Christmas holiday period.
They admit there is some uncertainty in their data amid a “fast-changing situation” but conclude health services will remain under extreme pressure.
Ministers say the Imperial College London report does not yet reflect the impact of the national lockdown in England.
The UK recorded another all-time high of daily coronavir