More than one million people in England were infected with coronavirus last week as the number of people testing positive remained high, new official figures show.

The number of positive tests for a new, more infectious variant has dropped.

An estimated one in 55 people in private households had the virus between January 10 and 16 as England entered the second week of its third national lockdown.

It is the equivalent of 1.02 million people, or 1.88 per cent of the population, the Office for National Statistics said.

This compares with an estimated one in 50 people, or 1.12 million, for the week ending January 2.

London had the highest percentage of people testing positive with about 1 in 35 infected, or 2.89 per cent of the capital's residents. 

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Between 12 to 17 January 2021, the highest percentage testing positive were seen in areas in London and the North East
The highest percentage testing positive were seen in areas in London and the North East

About 1 in 40 people in the North East had Covid-19 between January 10 and 16, with 1 in 50 in the North West and the West Midlands.


The other estimates are 1 in 55 people in the South East, 1 in 60 in the East Midlands, 1 in 75 in the East, 1 in 80 in the South West and 1 in 85 in Yorkshire and the Humber.

The percentage of people testing positive for the new, more infectious variant has fallen in London, the South East and the East of England, the study found.

In other regions, increases have levelled off.

Estimated percentage of the population in England testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) by non-overlapping 14-day periods between 26 April 2020 and 16 January 2021
Estimated percentage of the population in England testing positive by non-overlapping 14-day periods between 26 April 2020 and 16 January 2021
Estimated percentage of the population testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) on nose and throat swabs across regions
London and the North East had the highest percentage of people testing positive in the week ending January 16

The ONS said: "In England, the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus remained high but decreased slightly in the week ending 16 January 2021."

In Wales, around one in 70 people had Covid-19 between January 10 and 16 - unchanged from the previous ONS estimate for December 27 to January 2.

In Northern Ireland the ONS estimates around one in 60 people had Covid-19 between January 10 and 16, up from one in 200 for December 27 to January 2.

A nurse attends to a patient on a Covid-19 ward at Milton Keynes University Hospital
A nurse attends to a patient on a Covid-19 ward at Milton Keynes University Hospital

The estimate for Scotland is broadly unchanged, up slightly from around one in 115 people for December 25 to 31 to one in 100 for January 10 to 16.

All figures are for people in private households.

Official figures from the Government show that cases have been trending downwards in recent days as deaths have soared.

A further 37,892 positive tests were reported on Thursday, down from 55,761 a week earlier on January 15 and a pandemic record of 68,053 on January 8.

A separate report was released on Friday by the Zoe Covid Symptom Study.

It found that the UK's critical coronavirus R rate has fallen below 1 and infections are falling in every region of the country.

Cases peaked on January 1 and have plunged by 51 per cent in a fortnight, the study found.

Zoe's research suggests the epidemic is shrinking with the reproduction rate now at 0.8 amid lockdowns in every UK nation.

Hospital admissions are still high but are expected to fall next week, and deaths should start o plateau and fall soon, the study found.

But it also warned that three worst affected regions in the UK are London, Liverpool City Region, and Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea in Essex.

Experts expect that the rapid downward trends will slow down, something they have seen previously.

Despite the trend for cases, a leading expert behind the study warned Britons not to let their guard downs as the risk of infection is still high and "we still have a way to go".

In some NHS hospitals, people infected with Covid-19 make up more than half of all patients.

Tim Spector, lead scientist on the Zoe Covid Symptom Study app and professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, said: "According to ZOE app data, cases peaked on 1 January and like confirmed cases, we’ve seen cases continuing to fall with an estimated R of 0.8.

"However, we expect these rapid downward trends will slow down, as we have seen before with this virus.

"Hospital admissions are still high with hospitals full with 23-55 per cent Covid patients across the country.

"But admissions have started to flatten, and if the trend continues we expect hospital admissions to fall next week and deaths to start plateauing and falling in the near future.

"Signs are hopeful we’re on our way out of this situation but risk of infection still remains high and we still have a way to go.

"Zoe app contributors are also now logging their vaccines, so we’re now monitoring the roll out and hope soon to see a direct impact on the numbers."