ENGLAND’s third national Covid-19 lockdown is helping to reduce infections, a study found on Thursday(18), but the prevalence of cases remains high as prime minister Boris Johnson eyes a cautious route to re-opening the economy.
Johnson is due to set out a roadmap out of the lockdown, which began on January 5, on Monday(22), and has said that it will be a cautious and prudent approach.
The study, known as REACT-1 and led by researchers at Imperial College London, found that national prevalence was two thirds lower between Feb 4 and 13 than it had been in the previous survey that covered Jan 6-22.
Over 85,400 volunteers were tested in England between 4 and 13 of February to examine the levels of infection in the general population. The findings show infections in England have fallen significantly since the last report in January.
“It’s really encouraging news. We do think that lockdown is having an effect. We’ve seen this quite rapid decline now between January and this month,” Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial, told reporters.
“But… the actual prevalence is still very high. We’re only back where we were in September.”
The latest figures showed that 51 per 10,000 people were infected, down from 157 per 10,000 in the January survey, and that it is taking 15 days for infections to halve.
Prevalence fell across all age groups, dropping from 0.93% to 0.30% among the over 65s, although the researchers said they did not have evidence that this was being driven by the vaccine rollout, which has been targeted at older groups.
REACT-1 is one of England’s largest and most closely watched prevalence surveys, and the researchers issued the interim results in a pre-print that had not been peer-reviewed.
Health minister Matt Hancock said that the findings were an encouraging sign that lockdown was working.
“These findings show encouraging signs infections are now heading in the right direction across the country, but we must not drop our guard. Cases and hospital admissions remain high – over 20,000 COVID-19 patients are in hospital – so it is vital we all remain vigilant and follow the rules as our vaccination rollout continues at pace.
“I urge everyone to continue to stay at home – remember hands, face, space – and get your jab when you receive your invite.”
Kelly Beaver, managing director- Public Affairs at Ipsos MORI said: “The reduction in prevalence from our last REACT round is very welcome, particularly the very large reduction in London. But it’s important that we continue following all the measures that the government has set out so that we can continue to see further reductions, and make progress in beating the pandemic.”