Cases of Covid-19 in England have halved since March pointing to the effectiveness of vaccination, according to the latest series study REACT-1, commissioned by the UK Department of Health and published online Thursday.
In its 11th report since the pandemic began, researchers from Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI for REACT (Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission) conducted 127,000 PCR tests on volunteers in England between April 15 and May 3, to examine levels of Covid-19 infection in the general population.
It found the prevalence of the virus dropped by 50% from 0.20% in March to 0.10%, with only 1 in 1,000 people infected. Additionally, prevalence was the lowest in the over 75 age group at 0.05% and fell the most in the 55-64 year old group from 0.17% to 0.06%, which researchers said may be attributed to the timeline of the vaccination program. The age group with the highest prevalence of the virus, 25-34 at 0.21%, is not yet eligible for vaccination. Researchers say the data points to the impact of the vaccine rollout but warns “new variants remain a threat.”
Participants of Asian ethnicity had the highest level of infection at 0.31% compared with White participants at 0.09%. The B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the UK accounted for 92% of infections. The B.1.617 variant, first identified in India and recently classified as a ‘variant of concern’ by the WHO, accounted for 7.7% of infections. The study also found a “divergence between the prevalence of infections and hospitalizations and deaths,” suggesting “infections may have led to fewer hospitalizations and deaths since the start of widespread vaccination.”
With England and most of the UK set to start further easing of restrictions next week, the UK Minister of Health Matt Hancock said the study indicates the country is “going in the right direction,” but warned that due to the presence of variants, people must still exercise caution.
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT study said it is “very encouraging that infections have continued to fall while rules have been relaxed in England, and it’s likely that the vaccine roll out has played a key part in helping keep the virus at bay.”