Covid-19 infections in England have fallen by more than two-thirds in recent weeks, initial findings from a survey on community prevalence show.
The interim findings from the ninth report of REACT-1, a study into Covid-19 infections in England, were released Thursday by Imperial College London.
More than 85,400 volunteers were tested with throat and nose swabs in England between February 4 and 13 to examine the levels of infection in the general population.
The findings show national prevalence fell by two thirds — from 1.57% to 0.51%, or 51 per 10,000 infected. This is a significant decline in infections compared to the last report from January 6 to 22. England entered its third national lockdown of the pandemic on January. 6.
“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,” Paul Elliott, director of the program at Imperial, said in a statement.
The decline in prevalence was larger in some regions, in particular in London where it fell from 2.83% to 0.54% since the last report.
“In London, South East and West Midlands, prevalence fell by around 80%, although declines were smaller in the northern regions,” the Imperial report says.
Prevalence fell substantially across all age groups with highest prevalence among 18- to 24-year-olds at 0.89% and those between the ages of 5 and 12 at 0.86%, the report adds. The report concludes that although there is a ” strong decline” in prevalence of coronavirus in England among the general population five to six weeks into lockdown, it still remains high — “at levels similar to those observed in late September 2020.”
There are also still more people hospitalized with Covid-19 than at the peak of the first wave in April 2020.
The UK began its mass vaccination campaign in December, offering nearly all people over 70 a vaccine during January and February. It has now given more than 15 million people a first dose.
“The fall in prevalence was similar among those aged 65 years and over compared with other age groups, suggesting that if vaccines are effective at reducing transmission as well as disease, this effect is not yet a major driver of prevalence trends. Therefore, the observed falls described here are most likely due to reduced social interactions during lockdown,” the report reads.
“We do not yet know whether being vaccinated stops someone from passing the virus on to others,” England’s Department of Health added.
However, on Tuesday the UK Office for National Statistics reported almost 41% of over-80s in England tested positive for antibodies “most likely due to the high vaccination rate in this group.”