REACT study: UK infection rates rising in children under 17

uk infection rates, COVID
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UK infection rates are rising in children under the age of 17, while the epidemic in general is “neither growing nor shrinking”

Currently, case levels across the UK remain high. There is speculation that the speed of COVID vaccination means that antibodies are now waning slightly. But unsurprisingly, infection rates are twice as high in unvaccinated people as in vaccinated people.

The Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT) programme was commissioned by the Department of Health, to officially track how COVID-19 is spreading.

R on increase for school children

This month (October), the team found that UK infections are rising in those aged under 17 – essentially, the high school population. The R for this age group is at 1.18, while those aged above 18 and under 54 are experiencing a decreased R rate at 0.81.

At this moment, one in 43 children between the ages of 5 and 12 are infected, with one in 39 aged between 13 and 17 year olds also infected.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT programme from Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “Our latest data show that infections are high and rising in school-aged children. Households with children also had a higher prevalence of infection, suggesting that children may be passing on the virus to those that they live with.

“These trends reinforce how important it is for children aged 12 and above to get vaccinated and help curb the spread of infection, and minimise disruption to education.”

Where are numbers changing the most?

It seems that the highest rate of COVID infection in the UK is currently Yorkshire and the Humber, at 1.25%. The lowest level of infection is happening in the South East, at 0.57%. However, in areas such as London and the East Midlands, the R is identified at above one.

This means that the R is increasing, albeit gradually. In these areas, intergenerational households and exposure via low-paid labour is also relatively common.

Black people are also more likely to be infected than white people, while those living in households with six or more people are also significantly more likely to catch COVID.

Professor Christl Donnelly, Professor of Statistical Epidemiology at Imperial, said: “We found more breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infections among those who received their second vaccine dose between 3 and 6 months ago than those whose second dose was less than 3 months ago. However, booster doses offer the prospect of increased protection lowering population infection levels.”


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