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This page was last updated at 12:00 on 5 March 2021.
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Infections and deaths
The number of people testing positive has continued to fall in every UK nation
5 March 2021
An estimated 1 in 220 people tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) within the community population in England during the week ending 27 February 2021, equating to 248,100 people, or 0.45% of the community population.
This is lower than the week ending 19 February 2021, when 373,700 people (0.69%) were estimated to have COVID-19 in England.
The estimated percentage of people in the community – those in private homes and excluding hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings – testing positive continued to decrease in every nation.
In Wales, an estimated 10,600 people (0.35% of the community population or 1 in 285 people) were estimated to have COVID-19 in the week ending 27 February 2021, down from 14,700 people (0.48%) in the week ending 19 February 2021.
In Northern Ireland, an estimated 5,700 people (0.31% of the community population or around 1 in 325 people) had COVID-19 in the week ending 26 February 2021, down from 9,500 people (0.52%) in the week ending 19 February 2021.
In Scotland, an estimated 15,600 people (0.30% of the community population or 1 in 335 people) had COVID-19 in the week ending 27 February 2021, down from 23,400 people (0.45%) in the week ending 19 February 2021.
In the week ending 27 February 2021, the percentage testing positive has continued to decrease in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland
Estimated percentage of the population testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) on nose and throat swabs from 3 May 2020
All estimates are subject to uncertainty, given that a sample is only part of the wider population. The model used to provide these estimates is a Bayesian model: these provide 95% credible intervals. A credible interval gives an indication of the uncertainty of an estimate from data analysis. 95% credible intervals are calculated so that there is a 95% probability of the true value lying in the interval.
Official reported estimates are plotted at a reference point believed to be most representative of the given week.
The official estimate presents the best estimate at that point in time. Modelled estimates are used to calculate the official reported estimate. The model smooths the series to understand the trend and is revised each week to incorporate new test results, providing the best indication of trend over time.
Survey fieldwork for the pilot study began in England on 26 April 2020. In Wales, fieldwork began on 29 June 2020, in Northern Ireland fieldwork began on 26 July 2020 and in Scotland fieldwork began on 21 September 2020.
Because of a delay in receiving data from the labs, Northern Ireland estimates are for the period ending 26 February 2021, which is different to the other countries that end on 27 February 2021.
Around one in four people in England would have tested positive for antibodies
2 March 2021
An estimated 23.3% of the population in England would have tested positive for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the 28 days up to 11 February 2021.
This suggests around 10.5 million people aged 16 years and over in England would have tested positive for antibodies on a blood sample, suggesting they had either had the infection in the past, had received a vaccination, or both.
The highest percentages of people testing positive for antibodies were those aged 80 years and over in England, in the 28 days up to 11 February 2021.
In Wales, an estimated 16.4% of the population would have tested positive for antibodies in the 28 days up to 11 February 2021 and in Northern Ireland, the estimate is 15.9%. In Scotland, an estimated 13.1% of the population would have tested positive for antibodies.
In the data used to produce estimates for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, the number of people sampled who tested positive for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 is low compared with England. This means there is a higher degree of uncertainty in estimates for these nations, as indicated by larger confidence intervals.
In the 28 days up to 11 February 2021, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies was highest in England and lowest in Scotland
Estimated percentage of people testing positive for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 from a blood sample, by 28-day periods, 8 May 2020 to 11 February 2021, UK
All results are provisional and subject to revision.
These statistics refer to infections reported in the community, by which we mean private households. These figures exclude infections reported in hospitals, care homes and/or other institutional settings.
Survey fieldwork for the pilot study began in England on 26 April 2020. In Wales, fieldwork began on 29 June, in Northern Ireland fieldwork began on 26 July and in Scotland fieldwork began on 21 September.
Fewest number of COVID-19 deaths in six weeks
2 March 2021
There were 4,079 deaths involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) in England and Wales in the week ending 19 February 2021 – 1,612 fewer than the previous week.
Deaths from all causes also decreased in the most recent week but remained above average for this time of year. The proportion of total deaths involving COVID-19 also fell. In total, there were 13,809 deaths in England and Wales in the week ending 19 February, of which 29.5% involved COVID-19.
The number of deaths was above the five-year average in Week 7, but within the range of 2015 to 2019 deaths for Wales
Number of deaths registered by week, England and Wales, 28 December 2019 to 19 February 2021
Figures exclude deaths of non-residents.
Based on date a death was registered rather than occurred.
All figures for 2020 and 2021 are provisional.
The number of deaths registered in 2020 Weeks 19, 20, 22, 23, 36, 37, 52 and 53, and in Week 1 2021 were affected by the early May, late May, August, Christmas and New Year Bank Holidays (Friday 8 May 2020, Monday 25 May 2020, Monday 31 August 2020, Friday 25 December 2020, Monday 28 December 2020, Friday 1 January 2021); the impact of the early May Bank Holiday was analysed in our Week 20 bulletin.
The Week 52 five-year average is used to compare against Week 53 deaths.
The five-year average has been provided for 2015 to 2019 (rather than 2016 to 2020) because of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on deaths registered in 2020. The average for 2015 to 2019 provides a comparison of the number of deaths expected per week in a usual (non-pandemic) year.
The total number of deaths involving COVID-19 in England and Wales is approaching 130,000 (129,113 registrations up to 19 February 2021). The majority of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred among people aged 75 years and over.
Our data are based on deaths registered in England and Wales and include all deaths where “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)” was mentioned on the death certificate. Weekly figures are available by local authority and health board.
COVID-19 death rate rose in January 2021 but remained lower in England than in April 2020
25 February 2021
The coronavirus (COVID-19) was the leading cause of death in England and Wales in January 2021, for the third consecutive month.
COVID-19 was the underlying cause of death for 37.4% of all deaths registered last month in England, and 35.2% of all deaths registered in Wales, the highest proportions since the pandemic began.
A total of 68,796 deaths from all causes were registered in January 2021 in England, 29.5% higher than the five-year average for the same month (2015 to 2019). There were 4,431 deaths registered in Wales, 25.6% more than the five-year average for January. The five years used for the average are from 2015 to 2019, to compare with the number of deaths expected in a usual (non-pandemic) year.
Accounting for age, the COVID-19 death rate in England in January 2021 was 545.9 deaths per 100,000 people. The death rate increased between September 2020 and January 2021 but remained significantly lower than in April 2020. In Wales, the death rate in January 2021 due to COVID-19 was the highest rate so far, at 539.1 deaths per 100,000 people.
COVID-19 mortality rates in January were higher in more deprived areas of England and Wales. In England, the death rate due to COVID-19 in the most deprived areas was 710.4 deaths per 100,000 people, 1.8 times higher than in the least deprived areas (400.1 deaths per 100,000).
In Wales, the COVID-19 mortality rate in the most deprived areas (680.3 deaths per 100,000 people) was 1.5 times the mortality rate in the least deprived areas (444.7 deaths per 100,000 people).
Number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Middle layer Super Output Areas, England and Wales, deaths registered between 1 March 2020 and 31 January 2021
- Points on the map are placed at the centre of the local area they represent and do not show the actual location of deaths. The size of the circle is proportional to the number of deaths.
- To protect confidentiality, a small number of deaths have been reallocated between neighbouring areas. Given the method used for this, figures for some areas may be different to previously published data.
- Figures are for deaths registered rather than deaths occurring in each month.
- Figures exclude death of non-residents; geographical boundaries are based on the most up-to-date information available at the time of publication.
- Deaths "due to COVID-19" include only deaths where COVID-19 was the underlying cause of death.
- Locally adopted Middle-layer Super Output Area (MSOA) names are provided by House of Commons Library. While these names are not officially supported for National Statistics, they are provided here to help local users.
- Figures are provisional.
Diabetes, obesity and hypertension are likely to be risk factors for COVID-19 deaths. Analysis of death certificate data shows these conditions were mentioned at three times the rate in COVID-19 deaths than deaths from all causes in 2020.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was the most common pre-existing condition for COVID-19 deaths, identified in 25.3% of all deaths due to COVID-19. This is likely due to age being a risk factor and that a large proportion of these deaths occurred care homes deaths.
Also published recently
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, antibody data for the UK: 16 February 2021
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey: characteristics of people testing positive for COVID-19 in England, 22 February 2021
Economy, business and jobs
The economy increased by 1.2% in December 2020
12 February 2021
Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 1.2% in December 2020, following a revised 2.3% decline in November, when there were more extensive restrictions to activity. During December, a period of eased restrictions early in the month was followed by tighter restrictions to activity across all four nations of the UK later in the month.
December GDP is 6.3% below the levels seen in February 2020; this compares with 7.4% below February 2020 levels in November 2020.
Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1.0% in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2020, following revised 16.1% growth in Quarter 3 (July to Sept).
The services sector acted as the main contribution to growth in December, increasing by 1.7% as a number of consuming facing industries reopened following the easing of restrictions in December. There was also strong growth in health, with the strongest contributions coming from the coronavirus testing and tracing schemes.
Elsewhere the construction sector acted as a drag on growth in December, falling by 2.9% following seven consecutive monthly increases. Despite the industry remaining broadly open, all types of work saw a fall in December 2020, as businesses continued to adhere to social distancing measures along with site shutdowns as part of the Christmas period.
Jobs with fewer key workers and less ability to work from home were furloughed at a higher rate in April 2020
5 March 2021
These jobs, which were most vulnerable to reduced hours or pay during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, also had lower average wages compared with other occupations.
Jobs classified as highly vulnerable, based on whether or not they were classed as key workers and their ability to work from home, had on average the lowest pay – a median of £11.23 an hour. Jobs in this category included domestic and cleaning staff.
Medium-vulnerability occupations, such as retail workers and administration roles, had a median pay of £14.31 an hour.
Low-vulnerability occupations, which include key workers such as nurses and teachers, and also jobs that can be easily carried out from home such as programmers and financial managers had a median pay of £17.91 an hour.
Jobs in the high-vulnerability category also made up the majority of jobs paid £9.12 an hour or less, considered low pay.
Further analysis is presented in Which jobs are most likely to have seen a drop in pay during the pandemic?
Almost half of businesses reported decreasing turnover
4 March 2021
Of currently trading UK businesses, 44% reported a negative impact on their turnover compared with what is normally expected for this time of year.
According to initial results from Wave 25 of the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) for the period 8 to 21 February 2021, 12% of currently trading businesses reported their turnover had decreased by more than 50%, 13% reported a decrease by 20% to 50%, and 20% reported a decrease of up to 20%.
In the same period less than 1% of currently trading businesses reported an increase in turnover of more than 50%; 2% reported an increase of 20% to 50%, and 6% reported an increase of up to 20%; 39% reported no change in turnover.
In other faster indicators this week, there was an average of 344 daily ship visits in the week ending 28 February 2021, an increase of 4% from the previous week but 8% lower than the same period a year ago according to exactEarth.
Retail footfall in the UK was at 43% of its level in the equivalent period of 2020 in the week to 27 February 2021, an increase of 5 percentage points from last week, according to Springboard.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) accounted for 14% of sickness absence since April 2020
3 March 2021
The sickness absence rate in the UK (the proportion of total hours lost as a result of sickness or injury to total hours worked) has fallen to 1.8% in 2020, the lowest level since 1995, when current records began.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) accounted for 14.0% of all occurrences of sickness absence since April 2020.
The main reason for being absent from work remained minor illness, such as coughs and colds.
Our analysis shows the coronavirus pandemic has affected sickness absence data in a number of ways.
While the virus may have led to additional sickness absence, measures such as furloughing, social distancing, shielding and increased homeworking appear to have helped reduce other causes of absence, allowing the general downward trend to continue.
There is a large increase in the unemployment rate, while the employment rate continues to fall
23 February 2021
Early estimates for January 2021 indicate that there were 28.3 million payrolled employees, a fall of 2.5% or 730,000 people, compared with the same period of the previous year. Compared with the previous month, the number of payrolled employees increased by 0.3% - equivalent to 83,000 people. Since February 2020, the number of payrolled employees has fallen by 726,000; however, the larger falls were seen at the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Data from our Labour Force Survey shows the unemployment rate continued to increase, while the employment rate continued to fall. Labour Force Survey (LFS) responses are weighted to official population projections. As the current projections are 2018-based they are based on demographic trends that pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic. Rates published from the LFS remain robust; however, levels and changes in levels should be used with caution.
In the three months to December, the unemployment rate continued to increase while the employment rate continued to fall
UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity rates, seasonally adjusted, between October to December 2005 and October to December 2020
The number of job vacancies in November 2020 to January 2021 was 26% lower than a year ago. This is an improvement on the position in summer 2020 when vacancies were down by nearly 60% year on year, but the rate of improvement has slowed in the past few months. Further restrictions and national lockdowns recently have had an impact on vacancies in some industries more than others, most notably the accommodation and food services industry.
Although total hours worked continued to increase from the low levels in the previous quarter, this increase slowed in the latest quarter.
The number of people temporarily away from work has fallen since its peak in April and May 2020, although it has increased slightly in November and December. The number of people away from work because of the pandemic and receiving no pay has also fallen since the start of the pandemic but risen slightly over the last two months.
Annual growth in average employee pay continued to strengthen; the growth is driven in part by compositional effects of a fall in the number and proportion of lower-paid employee jobs, and by increased bonuses, which had been postponed earlier in the year.
Also published recently
- Young people not in education, employment or training (NEET), UK: February 2021
- Coronavirus and the impact on the UK travel and tourism industry
- Coronavirus and the impact on output in the UK economy: December 2020
- UK trade: December 2020
People and social impacts
Rising optimism about life returning to normal
5 March 2021
Around a third of adults in Great Britain (32%) feel it will take six months or less for life to return to normal, compared with 22% last week.
This is the first data from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey since the UK government announced its roadmap for ending lockdown in England and governments in Scotland and Wales announced plans for easing lockdown restrictions.
The proportion of adults who felt it will take more than a year for life to return to normal has decreased to one in five (20%) of adults, compared with 27% last week.
The proportion of adults who feel it will take six months or less for life to return to normal is continuing to increase
Great Britain, March 2020 to February 2021
Question: "How long do you think it will be before your life returns to normal?".
Base: all adults.
Response categories of “7 to 12 months”, “Never”, “Not sure” and "Prefer not to say" are not shown on this chart.
Confidence intervals are provided in the datasets associated with this bulletin. As a general rule, if the confidence interval around one estimate overlaps with the interval around another, we cannot say with certainty that there is more than a chance difference between the two estimates.
Well-being measures also showed signs of improvement. Continuing longer term trends, levels of happiness slightly increased in the most recent week of the survey, alongside a slight drop in anxiety. Measures for life satisfaction and feeling like things done in life are worthwhile also began to slightly improve, having remained consistently low in 2021 so far.
Positive sentiment towards vaccination for the coronavirus (COVID-19) remained high, with 94% of adults surveyed saying they had either had the vaccine, were waiting to receive the vaccine or would be likely to accept a vaccine if offered.
Of working adults, more people appear to be travelling to their place of work. The proportion of those only travelling to work in the last seven days has been gradually increasing since mid-February (10 to 14 February) and is now 39%, higher than the proportion of working adults who are only working from home (32%).
Vaccinated over 80s meeting more with others
4 March 2021
More than 40% of over 80s who have had a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine dose have met indoors with people who are not in their household, support bubble or providing care.
The Over 80s Vaccines Insights Study has provided estimations of behaviours for people aged 80 years and over in England and their attitudes to vaccination.
It found that, of over 80s surveyed between 15 and 20 February 2021, 99.8% had been offered the COVID-19 vaccination, of which 99% said they had received at least one dose.
Of over 80s who had only received the first dose of the vaccine, 42% said they had met someone other than a personal care support worker, a member of their household, or support bubble, indoors. Of over 80s who had had both doses of vaccine, that figure was nearly half of those surveyed (48%).
Including meeting up indoors with children, support bubble members or those providing care, 67% of over 80s had met with someone they do not live with, indoors, after at least one vaccine dose.
Outdoor activities among over 80s also increased with vaccination. Of those who had had at least one vaccine dose, nearly half (49%) had met someone they did not live with outdoors, 54% had gone shopping and 45% had participated in outdoor leisure activities. Only one in five (20%) had not left home for any reason since receiving their vaccination.
Those surveyed had greater confidence attending hospital since vaccination, with 25% of those who had received one dose of the vaccine saying they were more likely to leave home to attend a hospital for medical reasons, if they needed to. This confidence increased among those who had had both doses (33%).
Of all over 80s, 96% would be very or somewhat likely to encourage others to be vaccinated.
Schools report “some” or “major” challenges in implementing most measures to curb coronavirus spread
1 March 2021
Most schools report encountering either “some” or “major” challenges in implementing measures to control the spread of coronavirus during the Autumn term 2020.
School headteachers and their representatives were surveyed about which infection control measures had been put in place, and what challenges this presented.
Almost all primary schools surveyed reported implementing all 10 infection control measures recommended by the Department for Education, while most secondary schools (91%) reported implementing at least 12 of 15 recommended measures. The least commonly implemented measure was maintaining distance between pupils within bubbles.
While all schools had a “bubble” system in place during the Autumn term, bubbles in primary schools were most commonly the same size as usual class sizes, while most secondary schools had bubbles consisting of an entire year group.
Measures to maintain distancing within bubbles, such as staff keeping two metres from students, were more likely to present “major” challenges for schools, particularly in primary schools.
Staff staying home if they or another member of their household had COVID-19 symptoms also presented major challenges in more than a quarter of schools.
Hygiene measures, such as staff regularly washing hands, were more commonly regarded as easy to implement, as was banning large gatherings such as assemblies, although primary schools were more likely to say these measures were “easy to implement” than secondary schools.
More than a third of primary schools surveyed reported major challenges maintaining two metres between staff and pupils
Challenges implementing COVID-19 measures in primary schools, Autumn 2020
Almost half of secondary schools reported major challenges in maintain social distance between students in the same bubble
Challenges implementing COVID-19 measures in secondary schools, Autumn 2020
Further findings from the second round of the COVID-19 Schools Infection Survey (SIS) are presented in COVID-19 Schools Infection Survey Round 2, England: December 2020