The second wave of England’s coronavirus epidemic has reached a “critical stage,” researchers warn, as the latest data show the number of people infected is doubling every nine days.
Interim results from the unpublished REACT-1 study show that the overall prevalence of infection in the community in England is 1.28 percent, or 128 people per 10,000.
Based on these figures, the researchers estimate that 960,000 people are harboring the SARS-CoV-2 virus in England on any one day. This is a mid-range estimate, with the lower level at 860,000 and the higher at 1.05 million.
“Those are worryingly high numbers,” said Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University.
The figures should “set alarm bells ringing if they’ve not already,” said Simon Clarke, associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading.
The sixth round of data collection for the study — by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, one of the main data sources the government uses — will involve 160,000 swab samples from people aged five and above. This interim analysis is from the first 86,000 tests, taken between October 16 and 25.
It estimates the virus reproduction rate, known as R, is currently 1.56 — so for every 100 people infected, a further 156 people will go on to catch the virus.
This compares with an estimated R value of 1.16 from the previous data collection round between September 18 and October 5.
While prevalence was highest in northern parts of the country, the researchers said the epidemic was “now increasing most rapidly in the Midlands and the South.”
Prevalence increased across all age groups with the greatest increase in those aged 55-64, at 120 per 10,000, three times higher than the previous estimate of 37 per 10,000 at the start of the month. Prevalence remained highest in 18 to 24-year-olds at 225 per 10,000.