Prevalence of Coronavirus UK cases declined by about 60% from February to March, and recent data suggest that the decline is “flat,” researchers say.
Experts have found that infection rates have declined in all age groups and regions over the last two months. It also shows that vaccine deployment can “break the connection” between infection, death and hospitalization.
On average, 1 in 500 people still had the virus in March, according to the latest round of the Real-Time Assessment of Community Infections (React-1) study.
Researchers found that the virus epidemic was “significantly reduced” in southeastern and London from February to March, but in parts of southern and eastern Yorkshire there were “persistent areas” of the virus. remain. Midland and northwest.
To date, more than 1.5 million people have contributed cotton swabs to the React-1 study, allowing experts to assess infection rates across the country.
The 10th round of testing was conducted between March 11th and March 30th, collecting 140,844 swabs and returning 227 positive results.
This is compared to 689 positive results from 165,456 cotton swabs from February 4th to February 23rd.
Researchers’ findings, which will be published as a preprint, were outlined in a briefing to journalists on Wednesday.
They are included:
– Community infection rates were 0.20% in March – down from 0.49% in February and 1.57% in January.
– On average, Covid prevalence declined overall in February and March, but this was flat, according to last month’s data.
Using only the March data, the reproduction number (R) – the average number of people infected could inherit the disease – was estimated to be 1.
– The prevalence of Covid-19 declined in all age groups between February and March and is currently highest at ages 5-12 and lowest at age 65 and older.
– The number of overseas trips in February and March was “very very low” on average compared to the previous month.
– Comparing infectious diseases with deaths and hospitalizations, researchers have observed that “less deaths per infection” than expected based on studies in recent months.
Steven Riley, a professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London, said:
“The latest data do not show a continuous and obvious decline, and the prevalence remains flat, which is reflected in the R estimate 1.
“And there are some differences between infection and mortality patterns observed since January, which probably suggests that mass vaccination breaks some link between infection and mortality. I think you are doing it. “
“We have observed fewer deaths per infection than we expected based on recent months of research,” he commented on infection, death, and hospitalization data.
He added: “Although the degree is low, hospitalization for each infection is also low.
“We believe this is a signal of how vaccination programs are breaking the previously strong link between patterns of infection and patterns of death and hospitalization.”
Professor Riley warned that as vaccine deployment slows, researchers expect higher levels of infection.
Professor Paul Elliott, Program Director of Imperial in the Faculty of Public Health, said:
He added that more work is needed to determine the effects of vaccines on prevalence and infection.
Professor Elliott admitted that the “significant decline” in infection rates had “flattened” in March, but that it did not rise due to recent relaxation of restrictions such as social mixing permits and reinstatements. Good news. ” Of students to school.
He said a “careful surveillance brief” was needed as a “careful balancing act” was needed and the blockade would be further relaxed.
Health Minister Matt Hancock said: “These findings are promising and show the significant impact of blockades in combination with our incredible vaccination program on the spread of this dreaded virus.
“We have met four tests to ease the blockade. There are many reasons to be optimistic about the future, but we cannot do this at the expense of today’s vigilance.
“The only way to protect the progress we have made as a nation is to stay alert and do everything we can to get rid of this virus. Practice hand, face, space and outdoor meetings. , Accepting the vaccine offer. When it comes. “
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