Covid: One in every 100 people in northern England has had coronavirus in the last month, study reveals

  • Video report by ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke

Around one in every hundred people in northern England had coronavirus between September 18 and October 5, a government study has found.

The UK's largest study of Covid-19 infections also revealed that, across the whole of England, one in every 170 people were infected during the same period.

The stark figures also showed an eight-fold increase of infections in those aged over 65 - an age group considered vulnerable to coronavirus - compared to the previous full report.

The government's REACT study showed that among those aged 18-24, one in every 80 people were infected.

In the North West, one in every 100 people had the virus, the highest regional prevalence, followed by the North East, which had 0.9 people infected per 100.

The figures come as vast swathes of northern England brace new restrictions forcing closure of pubs, bars and restaurants, as the government attempts to stem a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The report warns "it is likely" the rest of England will have coronavirus levels similar to the North East and North West within a "few weeks".

The study, which took in data from 175,000 participants, showed there were 45,000 new infections every day between September 18 and October 5.

The study also revealed coronavirus prevalence was highest among Asian and black people at 0.90% and 0.73% compared to 0.45% in whites.

The Department for Health and Social Care says the study "reaffirms the need to maintain space from those you don’t live with, self-isolate if you have symptoms and follow the ‘rule of six’".

The government has stepped up its enforcement of coronavirus restrictions as cases surge across the UK. Credit: PA

The director of the REACT programme, Professor Paul Elliott, said: “Our robust findings paint a concerning picture of the growing epidemic across England.

"While certain areas are worse affected, if left unabated then infection trends will follow nation-wide and could lead to high levels of unnecessary death and illness from the disease.”

The study, commissioned by DHSC, was carried out by a "world-class team of scientists, clinicians and researchers" at Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Ipsos MORI.

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics said there had been a "marked increase" in new cases over the last six weeks with a particularly high level of infection among older teens and young adults.

"Rates have grown very rapidly" among young people aged from school year 12 through to 24 years old, the ONS said. The second highest rates are for the secondary school age group (school years seven to 11).

The figures come as the government is poised to announce further local restrictions in England - and with infections among students soaring.

Ministers are expected to outline a three-tier local lockdown system on Monday, which may see high-risk individuals told to stay at home for months and fresh measures for businesses.

There are particular concerns for the hospitality sector, as it faces new restrictions with data indicating it is linked to a significant number of transmissions.

Chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty on Thursday briefed MPs representing constituencies in northern England and the Midlands, where infection rates are at their highest.

Slides shown to MPs revealed hospitality accounts for 30% of exposure settings.