Six per cent of people in England have had Covid-19

By - Integrated Care Journal
Six per cent of people in England have had Covid-19

World’s first home antibody test published on Thursday by Imperial College London suggests that 6 per cent of the population in England – around 3.4 million people – have been infected with Covid-19. According to the Government’s official figures, a total of 315,600 have been infected with the virus.

The new study has given the 'clearest insight yet' into the number of people who have had Covid-19 in England.

Over 100,000 volunteers tested themselves at home using a finger prick test between 20 June and 13 July to check if they have antibodies against the virus which causes Covid-19.

The study tracked the spread of infection across England following the first peak of the pandemic. It showed that those most likely to have been affected were people working in health and care, BAME groups and people living in large households.

It is the first mass antibody surveillance study to be rolled out across the country using a fingerpick test that can be used by individuals at home if given approval in the future. Mass surveillance of antibodies in the population is vital to track infection across the country and identify differences between areas and different groups of the population.

While these fingerpick tests were deemed as accurate enough for the large scale study, no antibody fingerpick test has yet met MHRA criteria for individual use, which means none are currently approved for use outside of surveillance studies.

“Large scale antibody surveillance studies are crucial to helping us understand how the virus has spread across the country and whether there are specific groups who are more vulnerable, as we continue our work to drive down the spread of the disease,” said Edward Argar, Health Minister.

Some of the key findings of the report on the national home testing study include:

  • In London, 13 per cent of people had antibodies while in the South West of England it was less than 3 per cent.
  • The study showed high rates in those with people-facing jobs in care homes (16 per cent) and health care (12 per cent), compared to 5 per cent of people who were not key workers.
  • There were far higher rates in people from Black (17 per cent), Asian (12 per cent) and other (12 per cent) than white (5 per cent)
  • People living in the most deprived areas had higher antibody levels than those in the wealthiest areas (7 per cent compared with 5 per cent).
  • People living in households of more than 6 or 7 people (12 per cent, 13 per cent) were more likely to have had the virus compared to those living alone or with one other (5 per cent)
  • 32 per cent of people reported no symptoms, and this was more common in people over 65 (49 per cent).

Commenting on the report, Professor Graham Cooke, NIHR Research Professor of Infectious Diseases and research lead at Imperial, said: “Using the finger-prick tests suitable for large scale home testing has given us clearest insight yet into the spread of the virus in the country and who has been at greatest risk. These data will have important implications as decisions to ease lockdown restrictions in England. ”

Professor Helen Ward, lead author for the study of population prevalence, said that the study clearly showed that the virus has fallen particularly heavily on most deprived areas. "We need to do far more to protect people from any future waves of infection,” she said.

This surveillance study will be repeated in autumn and will test a further 200,000 people for antibodies.

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