COVID-19 infections have ‘fallen significantly’ across UK since January, shows Imperial College-led study


The study offers some hope for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is preparing to present a roadmap on Monday for gradually lifting stringent lockdown restrictions

Representational image. AP

London: The interim findings of a new UK government-backed study released on Thursday shows that COVID-19 infections in England have “fallen significantly” since January, reflecting the impact of the strict lockdown measures.

The Imperial College London led Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT-1) research swab tested over 85,400 volunteers in England between 4 and 13 February to examine the levels of infection in the general population and found infections have dropped by two-thirds since lockdown began, with London showing an 80 percent fall.

“The findings show infections in England have fallen significantly since the last report in January,” the latest report noted.

But the findings indicated coronavirus levels are still high, with one in 200 testing positive during that same period. “These findings show encouraging signs infections are now heading in the right direction across the country, but we must not drop our guard,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“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,” he said, reiterating the current lockdown message of staying at home and maintaining social distance.

The figures offer some hope for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is preparing to present a roadmap on Monday for gradually lifting stringent lockdown restrictions in place early last month. He has repeatedly warned that any unlocking will be “cautious” and has refrained from setting any firm dates for when specific sectors of the economy can reopen.

The main findings from the REACT study, ninth since the pandemic began last year alongside Ipsos MORI, show infection prevalence fell from 1.57 per ent to 0.51 percent, or 51 per 10,000 infected. The R number, or the rate at which the infection spreads, remains below one at around 0.72 and regional prevalence fell in all areas and across almost all age groups compared to the last report.

These encouraging results show that lockdown measures are effectively bringing infections down. It’s reassuring that the reduction in numbers of infections occurred in all ages and in most regions across the country, professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial College London.

While the trends we’ve observed are good news, we need to all work to keep infections down by sticking to the measures which are designed to protect us and our health system, he 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, added Kelly Beaver, managing director, Public Affairs, at Ipsos MORI.

With over 15 million of the most vulnerable categories of people vaccinated, the government now wants to wait for additional data to confirm if being vaccinated stops someone from passing the virus on to others and warns that it will also be some time before the impact of the vaccination programme reduces pressures on hospitals.

This report is the latest from the REACT study, which was commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and carried out by scientists, clinicians and researchers at Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Ipsos MORI.

The coronavirus has claimed 119,159 lives in the UK, along with over 4 million confirmed cases, according to the the Johns Hopkins University.

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