Imperial College London found that the R number is now at 1.6, which means that new COVID-19 infections are steadily increasing
Ipsos MORI and Imperial College London worked together to create a picture of how the UK is dealing with COVID-19, including information from up to 25 October. Their findings are alarming, suggesting that local lockdowns are not having a decisive effect on stopping the R rate from climbing higher.
This number is a devastating blow to individuals who have been experiencing minimum wage furlough while attempting to pay bills, or taking losses on their small businesses in Tier 3 regions. It will also indicate to the UK Government that new measures will need to be considered. There is quiet discussion about a possible “Tier 4” measure that bars all travel but school and work is being considered in the corridors of Westminster.
Currently, an estimated 128 people per 10,000 have the virus, compared to 60 per 10,000 on 5 October. That’s over double the amount of infection in less than a month.
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial, said:
“These interim findings paint a concerning picture of the situation in England, where we’re seeing a nation-wide increase in infection prevalence, which we know will lead to more hospitalisations and loss of life.
“We’re also detecting early signs that areas which previously had low rates of infection are following trends observed in the country’s worst-affected areas.”
Which part of the UK has the worst infection rates?
All locations in the UK are being impacted, but according to researchers, the North is being hit the hardest by a rise in infections. Prevalence was highest in Yorkshire and The Humber (2.7% up from 0.84%), where 1 in 40 were estimated to have the virus. Other areas with the highest prevalence were the North West (2.3%), North East (1.2%), West Midlands (1.6%) and East Midlands (1.2%). Clusters of cases in Lancashire, Manchester, Liverpool and West Yorkshire were also strongly highlighted.
The lowest prevalence was found in the South East (0.55%), East of England (0.64%), South West (0.72%), and London (0.89%).
Which age groups are having the most new COVID-19 infections?
Young people (18-24) are experiencing the highest infection rate, but it is older adults (55-64) who are seeing a tripled amount of infection in comparison to where they were one month ago. While a return to universities and service industries can explain why the young people figure is so high, older adults are a new and problematic situation that cannot currently be defined.
Primary and secondary school children are also doubled in infection, with concerned adults unwilling to send a child to school in some regions for fear of bringing home COVID-19 to more vulnerable family members.
What about antibodies? Are they still working to stop COVID-19?
In a separate Imperial study, a research team found that tests on more than 365,000 people in England have shown that the antibody response to the virus that causes COVID-19 wanes over time.
The decline in antibodies impacts people aged 75 and above, more than younger people.
Professor Paul Elliott, Director of the REACT programme at Imperial from the School of Public Health, said: “Our study shows that over time there is reduction in the proportion of people testing positive for antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19. It remains unclear what level of immunity antibodies provide, or for how long this immunity lasts.
“If someone tests positive for antibodies, they still need to follow national guidelines including social distancing measures, getting a swab test if they have symptoms and wearing face coverings where required.”
Helen Ward, one of the lead authors of the antibody waning report, said: “This very large study has shown that the proportion of people with detectable antibodies is falling over time. We don’t yet know whether this will leave these people at risk of reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19.”