Coronavirus infections have dropped by almost a third in England during the second national lockdown, research suggests.
Falling infections in the North East and North West – where cases decreased by more than half – have helped to fuel the change, according to the latest findings from Imperial College London’s React study.
Cases were also down in Yorkshire and the Humber, but prevalence remained high in the East Midlands and West Midlands.
Overall, there was a 30% drop in coronavirus cases across the country over almost a fortnight.
The study of more than 105,000 volunteers estimates 1 in 100 people in England had the virus between 13 to 24 November, a dramatic drop from the 1 in 80 reported on 2 November.
In previous studies, cases were doubling every nine days, whereas now they are halving.
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the Imperial programme, said this suggests the tiered system and subsequent lockdown had helped bring cases down.
It will be a welcome boost for Boris Johnson, who is facing a rebellion from his own MPs as the Commons is set to vote on his new tougher tiered system on Tuesday.
Professor Elliot said: “These trends suggest that the tiered approach helped to curb infections in these areas and that lockdown has added to this effect.
“As we approach a challenging time of year, it’s even more vital that through our actions and behaviours we all play our part in helping to keep the virus at bay.”
He added the data offered “encouraging signs”, particularly as the worst-affected regions are seeing falls in cases.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock also welcomed the findings, but said it was too soon to “take our foot off the pedal”.
“The next few weeks and months are the busiest time of year for our NHS, so it’s vital we all continue to follow new local restrictions, wash our hands, wear a face covering and observe social distancing,” he said.
The Department of Health said the research supports advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) that tougher measures are needed to stop the epidemic from growing in some areas.
In a news conference last week, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said that at the lowest level, Tier 1, cases would still continue to rise.
Tier 2 should hold cases level, he said, while the strictest Tier 3 measures should bring infections down.