During the first 10 days of England’s third national lockdown to stem the spread of the CCP virus, the prevalence of the virus seemed to have been stable at a high level but “may have started to rise” towards the end of the period, findings of the Imperial College London (ICL) suggests.
ICL on Thursday published the latest interim report (pdf) of its REal-time Assessment of Community Transmission study-1 (REACT-1), one of England’s largest studies into CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus infections, which tests between 120,000 and 180,000 people each month.
“During the initial 10 days of the third COVID-19 lockdown in England in January 2021, prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 was very high with no evidence of decline,” the conclusion of the report reads.
In the 142,909 swabs tested during round 8a (Jan. 6 to Jan. 15), 1,962 were tested positive, giving a weighted prevalence of 1.58 percent, the highest since the study started in May, 2020.
“Using a constant growth model, we found no strong evidence for either growth or decay averaged across the period,” the report reads, “rather, based on data from a limited number of days, prevalence may have started to rise at the end of round 8a.”
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said this does not yet reflect the impact of national lockdown.
Comparing the data with that of the previous round, the prevalence of the CCP virus has jumped up by over 50 percent, from 0.91 percent observed during round 7b (Nov. 25 to Dec. 3).
The weighted prevalence has increased in all adult age groups during round 8a, with 0.94 percent among over-65s, more than doubled from 0.41 percent in round 7b.
The report says that the study may have missed a peak because of the over-one-month-gap between the two rounds.
“Until prevalence in the community is reduced substantially, health services will remain under extreme pressure and the cumulative number of lives lost during this pandemic will continue to increase rapidly,” the report reads.
Steven Riley, a professor of infectious disease dynamics who co-led the work said that the number of CCP virus patients in hospital is “extremely high” at the moment.
“We can’t expect that to drop unless we can achieve lower levels of prevalence,” Riley said in a media briefing.
“The fact that [prevalence] is not going down has potentially serious consequences,” he added.
Riley also cautioned against pinning immediate hopes on CCP virus vaccines.
“The vaccine is only going to have a very limited impact on prevalence in the short-term,” he told reporters.
In the same briefing, Paul Elliott, an expert in epidemiology and public health medicine and director of the REACT programme, said the stubborn levels of CCP virus infection may be in part due to a more transmissible variant of the virus which emerged late last year.
According to government data, 15,000 people have been admitted to hospitals since Christmas Eve.
The UK government has doubled down on enforcing it’s restriction measures to curb the spread of the CCP virus after a new variant was discovered in England in mid-December and several other new variants were identified around the globe afterwards.
The number of CCP virus cases, hospitalisations, and deaths have so far continued to increase, despite the government’s measures including stringent lockdowns, rapid testing, and vaccination.
On Wednesday, the UK reported a record-high 1,820 deaths within 28 days of a positive CCP virus test, taking the total UK death toll to 95,829.
The UK is also ahead of the world in its CCP virus vaccine roll-out, but the impact of the vaccines is not yet clear.
“While the vaccine programme continues to accelerate and expand to protect as many people as possible, with over 4 million people vaccinated, we do not know whether being vaccinated stops someone from passing the virus on to others,” DHSC said in a statement.
“It will also be some time before the impact of the vaccination programme reduces pressures on hospitals.”
Reuters contributed to this report.