English COVID-19 prevalence high but growth slowing

LONDON (Reuters) – The prevalence of COVID-19 infections in England is much higher than it was at the end of August but there are signs that growth in infection rate is slowing, a study by Imperial College said on Thursday.

The findings come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson pleaded with Britons to obey the rules imposed to tackle a rapidly accelerating second wave of the coronavirus, with more than 7,000 new cases of COVID-19 reported in each of the last two days.

The Imperial study showed 1 in 200 people were infected, but also that the reproduction R rate dropped from 1.7 to 1.1, meaning that on average, 10 infected people will go on to infect another 11 people rather than 17 people.

The fall in the R number therefore implies the epidemic’s growth might be decelerating.

“While our latest findings show some early evidence that the growth of new cases may have slowed, suggesting efforts to control the infection are working, the prevalence of infection is the highest that we have recorded to date,” Imperial’s Professor Paul Elliott said.

The study, the largest of its kind in Britain, tested 84,610 volunteers between Sept. 18 and 26.

Of those, 363 tested positive, which is 55 people per 10,000 – and an increase on the 13 per 10,000 people found to be infected in the previous study between Aug. 24 and Sept. 7.

The latest study implied 411,000 people had the coronavirus, with prevalence increasing in all age groups.

Half of the volunteers did not have symptoms at the time of testing or the week before, but not all of those people remained asymptomatic throughout, the study said.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison)

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