Virus Spread in England Falls Sharply Ahead of Johnson Review

Joe MayesThu, 18 February 2021, 5:00 am

(Bloomberg) — Coronavirus infections in England have fallen “significantly” in recent weeks, a boost to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he weighs how quickly to re-open Britain’s economy.

National prevalence of the virus was down by two-thirds in the first half of February compared to January, according to a survey by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, one of the country’s largest coronavirus studies. The number of infected people fell to 51 per 10,000 at the time of the latest survey in February, down from 157 per 10,000 in January.

Signs that a national lockdown are curbing the pandemic are welcome news for Johnson, who is under pressure to ease restrictions and help the U.K. economy rebound from its worst recession in 300 years. Johnson is due to set out a “road map” for easing the rules on Feb. 22, and has said he will look closely at the data regarding infections, hospitalizations and deaths due to the disease before making any decisions.

Read more: U.K.’s Johnson Hints Hospitality Faces Long Wait to Reopen

“These findings show encouraging signs infections are now heading in the right direction across the country, but we must not drop our guard,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a statement. “Cases and hospital admissions remain high.”

Non-essential shops could be open from mid-April, followed by hospitality venues, hotels and some leisures facilities later in the month, Sky News reported Wednesday, citing an unpublished Whitehall document. Johnson has said he hopes face-to-face teaching in schools can begin again from March 8.