Covid: One in 80 infected in England last month, React report reveals

Covid infections are rising, according to a major study. Credit: PA

Covid-19 infections have risen to one in 80, according to a government survey, which is double the figure reported a month ago.

The government’s REACT study – the largest looking into coronavirus infections – has warned cases “continue to rapidly increase” and that without national action hospitalisations and deaths would rise.

Last week, it was reported one in 90 had the virus, but on October 9 this stood at one in 170. Thursday's report covers the period between October 16 and November 2.

National restrictions “would be expected to take some time to reflect in infection numbers,” the report adds.

A woman passes a shuttered bar in Brixton, south London, at the start of the first full week of the four-week national lockdown in England Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial College, said: “Our latest round of REACT testing offers robust data on England’s coronavirus situation up until just three days before the country entered its second nationwide lockdown.

“We’ve shown that the prevalence of infection has remained high, reinforcing the need for people to act to help bring infections down and control the virus.

“These important data will be a critical baseline from which to determine if the new measures are effective at curbing the growth of the epidemic.”

Between October 16 and November 2, findings show:

  • Prevalence of infection was 1.3%, meaning 130 people per 10,000 were infected, up from 60 people per 10,000 in the previous report;

  • Regional prevalence of infection was highest in the North West (2.4%, up from 1.2%), Yorkshire and The Humber (2.3% up from 0.84%) and lowest in South East (0.69% up from 0.29%) and East of England (0.69% up from 0.30%);

  • Since the last REACT report in early October, the virus has been doubling every 24 days;

  • Prevalence increased across all age groups; and

  • The epidemic has progressed from specific at-risk groups to a more generalised pattern of transmission.

More than 160,000 volunteers were tested in England between October 16 and November 2 to examine the levels of infection in the general population.

(PA) Credit: PA

Elsewhere, Covid-19 case rates in England are rising for all age groups, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England. The highest rate continues to be among 20 to 29 year-olds, which stood at 358.9 cases per 100,000 people in the week to November 8, up from 347.1 in the previous week. Among 30 to 39 year-olds the rate rose from 301.0 to 314.3, and for 40 to 49 year-olds it rose from 289.6 to 294.1. Looking at older age groups, the rate climbed from 129.0 to 135.0 for those aged 70 to 79, and from 192.4 to 217.1 for those aged 80 and over.

ITV News' resident statistician, Prof Jennifer Rogers, vice president at the Royal Statistical Society, looks at what the study tells us about the path of the virus

Round 6 of the React study has been split into two; round 6a (which runs from 16 Oct to 25 Oct and we’ve already seen these results), and round 6b (which runs from 26 Oct to 2 Nov). The prevalences are higher in round 6 than round 5. There hasn’t been too much change between round 6a and 6b. Going from one in every 78 people in round 6a to one in every 76 people in round 6b.

I’m not really too surprised by this as we had been experiencing a period a fast growth. We know that the prevalence is higher now than in round 5 (which covered 18 Sep to 5 Oct). What is interesting is that the growth rates and R numbers have changed quite a lot in round 6b compared with round 6a.

In round 6a, we seemed to be seeing very fast growth (growth rate of 7.7%). But now we actually seem to have that cases of the virus are shrinking (growth rate of -2.4%). The R number for England in round 6a was 1.56 and for 6b it’s 0.85. So whilst the prevalence in England is still high, we now seem to be seeing signs that Covid cases are shrinking.

Signs suggest cases could be shrinking. Credit: PA

Looking at regions

The North East is the only area that has seen an increase in the R number between rounds 6a and 6b.

The North East and East of England are also the only regions in England with R numbers greater than 1 and positive growth rates (1.15 and 2.3% for the North East and 1.12 and 1.8% in the East of England). Note that all estimates of R have a confidence interval that crosses 1, so we are not 100% certain that regions are now shrinking. There’s the possibility that cases are still growing in all regions. London and East Midlands are now estimated to be shrinking the quickest. They also have to lowest corresponding R numbers (0.77 in each). Looking at the prevalences reported in round 6 in total across different demographics: Prevalence remains highest in the North West where 20 in every 1,000 people are estimated to have Covid.

It’s lowest in the South East where seven in every 1,000 are estimated to have Covid. But the South East and South East and the South West had the biggest increases in Covid prevalence in round 6 compared with round 5. Prevalence rates more than doubled in these regions. The 55-64 and 65+ age groups saw the highest increases in prevalence, but overall prevalences in these groups remain quite low.

The 65+ age group has the lowest prevalence with eight per 1,000 people in this group estimated to have the virus.

The age group with the highest prevalence remains the 18-24 age group (which also had the highest prevalence in round 5).

In this age group 19 in every 1,000 people are estimated to have Covid. But the growth in prevalence in this age group has also been the slowest (it was 16 in every 1,000 people in round 5). New to this report is looking at symptoms and this is really interesting - 7.5 in every 1,000 people have classic COVID symptoms, 16 in every 1,000 people have COVID with other symptoms, and 12 in every 1,000 people have COVID with no symptoms.