Coronavirus infections in England have continued to rise but growth may have slowed during the latter part the REACT study from Imperial College.

Researchers say it is too early to say whether that the drop in coronavirus infections followed by an uptick represents a levelling off or a transient dip followed by continued growth.

Tests on more than 160,000 people between 16th October and 2nd November, show that the number of people infected has more than doubled since the last full round of testing. The most recent figures show that over 1 in 80 people in England have the virus, or 1.3% of the population, compared to 1 in 170 as of early October (0.6%).

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial, said: “Our latest round of REACT testing offers robust data on England’s coronavirus situation up until just three days before the country entered its second nation-wide lockdown. We’ve shown that the prevalence of infection has remained high, reinforcing the need for people to act to help bring infections down and control the virus.

“These important data will be a critical baseline from which to determine if the new measures are effective at curbing the growth of the epidemic.”

Some regions have seen a reversal of trends of coronavirus cases

With the number of infections remaining very high across the country, leading to rising hospitalisations and deaths, ongoing action is needed to bring the prevalence down and prevent further illness and loss of life.

While prevalence remains high nation-wide, regional differences remain and in some areas, there has been a reversal of trends observed in the interim report. For example the rapid growth of infections observed in the South no longer appeared in the most recent tests. And Yorkshire and The Humber, which previously had the highest prevalence, has experienced a decline in positive tests in the most recent data. 

The North and Midlands remain the worst affected areas, with the highest prevalence seen in the North West and Yorkshire and The Humber (2.4% and 2.3%, respectively). London had a prevalence of 0.97% while the lowest figures were found in the East and South East (0.69%).

Professor Steven Riley, study author and Professor of Infectious Disease Dynamics at Imperial, said: “These findings support those of other large studies that are monitoring England’s epidemic, but at the moment it’s too early to tell whether we are seeing a true slowing of growth.

“That’s why it’s vital that we continue to monitor the situation closely with our next round of testing planned later this month. Combined with today’s report, these timely data will form part of the evidence base that will inform decision-makers.”

These findings from the REal-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT 1) programme are available in a pre-print report, with supporting data, and will be submitted for peer-review.