A study conducted by Imperial College London has found that the number of cases among those aged 54 and below is decreasing, but is increasing in those aged 55 and above.
The REACT-1 study, which had a tests from a total of almost 95,000 people, found that the overall number of cases is falling, with an R number of 0.94. However, the R number for those aged 55 and over was 1.04, meaning that case numbers in this group – one which is generally more vulnerable to the virus – are increasing.
Overall prevalence was found to be 2.88%, meaning roughly 1 in 35 people is infected with covid. This is the second-highest prevalence measured by the study, which started in May 2020, but represents a drop from January which came in at 4.41%. Prevalence is currently highest in younger age groups, with 5-11 year olds having a 4.69% prevalence and those aged 75+ having a 1.68% prevalence.
This distribution is likely due to schools providing a place where an infected person can come into contact with many people in a short period of time, whereas older people are less likely to be in close contact with so many people, and are more likely to take greater precautions against the virus due to being in a higher-risk group.
The increase in case rates among older people comes after Boris Johnson removed all legal covid restrictions, replacing them with advisory guidance.
The government’s covid case numbers show the number of positive tests in the past week to be 346,059, a 46.4% increase on the week before. The weekly numbers for hospitalisations and deaths have also increased by 12.2% to 8,950, and by 19.5% to 778, respectively.
Omicron and its variants accounted for 99.92% of recorded cases, with just a single positive sample being of the once-dominant Delta variant. The study estimated that around 47.2% of cases are the “stealth variant” of Omicron, BA.2, up from just 0.8% of cases in January.
Regarding the study, its director, Professor Paul Elliot, said:
“It’s encouraging that infections have been falling across England, but they are still very high and the possibility that they are rising in older adults may be cause for concern.”
“The good news is that this is a highly vaccinated group, however, a high number of infections will lead to more people becoming ill, so it’s important that people continue to follow public health guidance to avoid fuelling further spread of the virus.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid stated in response to the study’s findings:
“It is reassuring to see that COVID-19 cases have continued to fall as we learn to live with the virus and regain our freedoms.”
“We must continue to protect each other where necessary. Vaccines remain our best line of defence against the virus. If you haven’t already, please get boosted now.”