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How prevalent is coronavirus around the UK?

By PA News

Tracking the prevalence of coronavirus across the UK is one way of identifying possible hot spots in a particular area of the country, as well as spotting trends both across a region and at a local level.

We can do this by calculating how many confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported per 100,000 of the population.

There are a few reasons we should treat these figures with caution, however.

Not everybody who has the virus is being tested, so we cannot be sure of the precise geographic spread of the disease.

The amount of testing varies from place to place.

Some areas will rank higher than others simply because they are carrying out more tests and therefore detecting more cases.

There is also a lag in the processing and reporting of test results, so the daily figures are not a snapshot of what is happening around the country in real-time.

Bearing all these things in mind, what do the figures currently suggest?

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The area with the highest prevalence in the whole of the UK is Newport in Wales, which had reported around 286 cases per 100,000 population as of April 7.

Newport is one of only five areas of the UK with at least 200 confirmed cases of coronavirus per 100,000.

The other four are all in London: Brent (248 cases per 100,000), Southwark (224), Lambeth (214) and Harrow (200).

Along with Newport, other areas of south Wales are reporting some of the highest levels of prevalence in the country, such as Cardiff (198 cases per 100,000), Torfaen (188) and Blaenau Gwent (174).

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Dr Frank Atherton, the chief medical officer for Wales, suggested last month that the high number of cases in these areas could be partly to do with increased testing by the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, which is responsible for this part of the country.

“There has been a lot more testing in Aneurin Bevan,” Dr Atherton told a press conference on March 26, “and so the fact we’ve been doing more testing has led to an increase in the number of cases identified.”

He also noted that “being on the border with England is an issue”, as “we know that the hotspot in the UK is around London”, which has direct rail links to the area.

No area of mainland Scotland has yet reached similar levels of prevalence to Wales or London.

On the Scottish mainland, the area covered by the Borders NHS health board has the highest prevalence of the virus with 129 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Tayside (124) and Dumfries & Galloway (102).

Shetland has 42 confirmed cases as of April 7, among a population of 23,000 – equivalent to 183 cases per 100,000 people.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Prevalence is also lower across Northern Ireland, with Belfast recording the highest number (116 cases per 100,000), followed by Lisburn & Castlereagh (99) and Ards & North Down (65).

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Lastly, in England there are levels of prevalence outside London that are well above 100 cases per 100,000.

As of April 7, the highest is in Cumbria (161 cases per 100,000), followed by Sheffield (152) and Walsall (136).

But again, these levels could be influenced by the volume of testing in these parts of the country – particularly in Sheffield, where the council has acknowledged there is more testing taking place than in other areas.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

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