English COVID infections doubled in October - Imperial College study

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a face mask walks near the remains of West Pier, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Brighton, Britain, November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

LONDON (Reuters) - English COVID-19 infections rose sharply in October with double the number of cases reported by the end of the month compared to the beginning ahead of the reintroduction of a national lockdown, a large study said on Thursday.

The study, led by Imperial College London and known as REACT, showed that over 1 in 80 people were infected after more than 160,000 people were tested between Oct 16 and Nov 2, double that reported in early October.

At the end of October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown in England, which came into force on Nov 5, after his science advisors warned that key indicators of the pandemic were going in the wrong direction.

Those behind the study said its timing could provide a baseline to monitor the spread of COVID-19 during the 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,” said Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial.

“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.”

The study said that 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 in early October.

Since then, the coronavirus has been doubling every 24 days, the study found, adding that prevalence had increased across all age groups.

“The epidemic has progressed from specific at-risk groups to a more generalised pattern of transmission,” a statement released by the health ministry about the study said.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Kate Holton and Stephen Addison