Covid-19 infection rate may be slowing in UK, major study finds

Results from the fourth report of the country’s largest study on coronavirus rates of infection have been published today – and it suggests the growth of infection may be slowing.

The study, by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, examines levels of infection in the general population in England by testing over 150,000 participants each month over a two week period, and over 80,000 volunteers out of 150,000 have been tested so far between September 18 and 26.

Findings show infections increased substantially across the country before the R rate fell to around 1.1, suggesting the growth of infection may be slowing.

It is estimated one in 200 people in England were infected with the virus, reinforcing the need to remain vigilant.

The largest study into Covid-19 suggests that the infection rate may be slowing. Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial from the School of Public Health, said: “While our latest findings show some early evidence that the growth of new cases may have slowed, suggesting efforts to control the infection are working, the prevalence of infection is the highest that we have recorded to date.

“This reinforces the need for protective measures to limit the spread of the disease and the public’s adherence to these, which will be vital to minimise further significant illness and loss of life from COVID-19.”

What does the report show?

363 out of 84,610 volunteers tested positive with prevalence of 0.55 per cent, implying that 55 people per 10,000 are infected, which is an increase on 13 people per 10,000 in the last report.

This implies 411,000 people in England have the virus that causes Covid-19, meaning over one in 200 people were infected at any one time.

Today’s report also shows prevalence of infection increased across all age groups and regions.

Infection was highest in those aged 18 to 24 with one in 100 people infected, and cases increased seven-fold in those aged over 65.

The north west had the highest levels of infection and the number of infections in London increased five-fold.

50 per cent of test positive volunteers did not have symptoms at the time of testing or the week before, but this does not mean they did not later develop symptoms.

It also showed that people of Asian and black ethnicity are twice as likely to have the virus that causes Covid-19 compared to white people.

The study also stated that it is important to stick to new guidance and rules to help decrease the infection rate, and people may be fined for failing to self-isolate.

Kelly Beaver, managing director at Ipsos MORI, said: “The continuing support of the public by taking part in the study is something we remain immensely grateful for.

“The number of participants gives this study the robustness and thoroughness which marks it out as world leading. Ipsos MORI would like to thank everyone who’s volunteered so far and those who will volunteer for further rounds of this study.”

The final report and findings of all 150,000 volunteers tested between 18 September and 5 October will be published next week.