The rate of COVID-19 infection halved every 8 to 9 days during May, research from Imperial College London has suggested.
According to the research, there were on average 13 positive cases for every 10,000 people, with an overall reproduction number of 0.57 – lower than previously reported. These findings show the virus was circulating with relatively low prevalence and was declining in May, ahead of the decision being made to begin to lift lockdown restrictions.
‘This ambitious testing programme will help us better understand the spread of the virus to date, predict how it may spread in the future and inform our response to the pandemic,’ said Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock.
‘It shows the impact our national lockdown efforts have had and demonstrates that we have taken the right actions at the right time. As a country we have made great strides towards beating this virus but we mustn’t take our foot off the pedal, and such studies will be vital as we continue to fight this virus.’
The research also suggests that care home staff and healthcare workers were more likely to be infected with COVID-19 during lockdown than the general population, at a time when the public was following government advice to stay at home, therefore limiting their exposure to the virus. Those who had patient-facing roles were more likely to be in contact with known cases as part of their work
‘Community testing is a vital step in ongoing efforts to mitigate the pandemic, but to be successful this must be based on robust scientific evidence and sound statistics,’ said Professor Paul Elliott, FMedSci, Director of the programme at Imperial College.
‘Through this surveillance programme with DHSC and Ipsos MORI we’re gathering the critical knowledge base necessary to underpin community testing and facilitate a greater understanding of the prevalence of COVID-19 in every corner of England.’