Covid R rate could be lower than initially feared

By David Forrest - Integrated Care Journal

A study of 120,000 people who were tested for Covid-19 between 1 May and 1 June has revealed that rates of infection fell during May, with the infection rate halving every eight to nine days.

The Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT-1)  showed that on average there were 13 positive cases for every 10,000 people tested, with an overall reproduction number of 0.57, an R number lower than previously expected.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the results to the study: “ show the impact our national lockdown efforts have had and demonstrate that we have taken the right actions at the right time. ” 

Key findings from REACT-1: 

  • Young adults, aged 18 to 24, were more likely to test positive than other age groups, reinforcing the need for this age group to adhere to social distancing measures to protect vulnerable friends and family 

  • Those of Asian ethnicity were more likely to test positive than those of white ethnicity

  • Care home staff and healthcare workers were more likely to be infected with Covid-19 during lockdown than the general population.

  • Anyone who had recent contact with a known Covid-19 case was 24 times more likely to test positive than those with no such contacts 

  • 69 per cent of people testing positive reported no symptoms on the day of the test or the previous week. However, it is unknown if they later developed symptoms after testing.

Professor Paul Elliott, FMedSci, Director of the programme at Imperial College London, said:  “Through this surveillance programme with the Department of Health and Social Care (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. ” 

The first report has provided a baseline for further research hoping to be carried out through the second part of the programme (REACT-2). REACT-2 plans to test 100,000 people during the month of June to identify the levels of antibodies against the virus that causes Covid-19 in the general public.

The testing was commissioned by DHSC and carried out by a team of scientists, clinicians and researchers at Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Ipsos MORI.

The NHS Test and Trace service is to play an integral role in stopping the virus from spreading further. The service has already contacted 130,000 people at risk of unwittingly transmitting the virus and advising them to self-isolate.

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