Asked whether the “kink” in the case rate could have been caused by “people rushing to the pub” ahead of a lockdown, Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial, said: “Yes it could be, partly.

“Clearly, we’ve thought a lot about this a lot. There was a lot happening over that period. There was half-term in many areas, it was a wet month and there were cold periods, and there was a lot of talk about lockdown. Something happened in people’s behaviour that caused things to go down and then go back up again, and it appears to be consistent across the country.”

The uptick began a few days before the national lockdown announcement, when speculation about new restrictions was growing. The figures are based on data from October 16 to November 2, analysing the swab results of 160,175 participants.

The team estimated that the ‘R’ value was 1.56 for the period between October 16 and October 25, and 0.85 for the period to November 2, although cases were rising again at the end of the study period. 

Data also released on Thursday, from the Zoe Covid Symptom Study app run by King’s College London, suggests the ‘R’ value across England has dropped to below 1.0 and is at 0.9. It is also 0.9 for Scotland and Wales, while it has dropped to 0.8 in Northern Ireland, the research suggests.

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