148,000 in England infected with coronavirus in last two weeks
First national snapshot estimates that 0.27% of population currently positive
Customers wait at a garden centre. The ONS findings will inform the government’s next steps on easing the lockdown. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images
The first national snapshot of Covid-19 rates has revealed that 148,000 people in England were infected with the virus over the past two weeks.
The study, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), tested 10,705 people in more than 5,000 households and estimated that 0.27% of the population in England were currently positive for Covid-19. That translates to roughly 10,000 people a day across the entire population, between 27 April and 10 May 2020.
The findings will inform the government’s next steps as it considers whether it is safe enough to further ease restrictions on socialising, businesses and schools in the coming weeks. Experts suggest the current rates of infection remain “some way off” what would be needed to lift the lockdown.
The results are likely to fuel concerns about the potential of opening primary schools on 1 June to fuel transmission in the community, as no evidence was found of differences in the proportions testing positive between the age categories 2 to 19, 20 to 49, 50 to 69 and 70 years and over.
The study also reveals far higher infection rates among those working with patients in healthcare and those in social care roles, with 1.33% of these participants testing positive.
The figures do not include people in hospital or care homes where rates of Covid-19 infection – and possibly transmission – are likely to be higher.
The results are the national snapshot of what will be a weekly exercise, designed to provide a rolling estimate of current infection levels and community transmission rates. Future updates are also expected to give regional breakdowns and results of antibody testing, showing how many people have been infected in the past.
The result does not give a direct measurement of R, the effective reproduction number of the virus, which tells us whether the country is on an exponentially increasing trajectory or whether infection numbers are on the way down. The current number is a snapshot, while R is about the gradient of the curve and is calculated using the current infection rates and other data such as hospital admissions, serology surveys of past infection and behavioural contact surveys.
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