Study suggests growth of COVID infection may be slowing

Interim results from the fourth report of the country’s largest study on coronavirus rates of infection have been published.

The study examines levels of infection in the general population in England by testing over 150,000 participants each month over a two-week period.

Over 80,000 volunteers out of 150,000 have been tested so far between 18 and 26 September. Findings show infections increased substantially across the country before the R rate fell to around 1.1, suggesting the growth of infection may be slowing. It is estimated 1 in 200 people in England were infected with the virus, reinforcing the need to remain vigilant.

The report shows prevalence of infection increased across all age groups and regions. Infection was highest in those aged 18 to 24 with 1 in 100 people infected, and cases increased seven-fold in those aged over 65. The North West had the highest levels of infection and the number of infections in London increased five-fold.

The high rate of infection reinforces the need for the public to follow the latest rules, including only meeting socially in groups of up to 6 people. 

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial from the School of Public Health, said: "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.

"This reinforces the need for protective measures to limit the spread of the disease and the public’s adherence to these, which will be vital to minimise further significant illness and loss of life from COVID-19."