Seven in 10 people in England have caught Covid since early in pandemic, data suggests

·3-min read
A Covid walk-in test centre (PA Wire)
A Covid walk-in test centre (PA Wire)

It is thought seven in 10 people in England have had Covid-19 since the early months of the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Around 38.5 million people, or 70.7 per cent of the population, are likely to have had the virus at least once between the end of April 2020 and February 11, 2022.

It marks the first time an attempt has been made to calculate the cumulative number of people who have had Covid-19 over much of the pandemic.

Data has been compiled by the ONS’ Covid-19 infection survey, which started on April 27, 2020 and does not include figures for the initial wave which started in early March.

Professor James Naismith of the University of Oxford said the figures provided a “valuable piece of data” but warned the number of infected people was “rising rapidly” at the end of the survey period.

“In some regions of England today I would predict the portion of those who have had Covid-19 will easily exceed 80 per cent,” he added.

Separate estimates have been published for the other three UK nations, each of which covers a different time period according to when the infection survey began.

In Wales, 1.7 million people - or 56.0 per cent of the population - are likely to have had Covid-19 between June 30, 2020 and February 11, 2022.

In Scotland, 2.7 million people (51.5 per cent of the population) had the virus between September 22, 2020 and February 11 this year.

And in Northern Ireland, 1.3 million people, the equivalent of 72.2 per cent of the population, are estimated to have had Covid-19 between July 27, 2020 and February 11 2022.

All figures are for people in private households and do not include those in hospitals, care homes and other communal establishments.

The data also shows indicates how each wave of the virus has pushed up the cumulative number of people to have been infected.

By the start of the second wave in September 2020, the proportion of the population in England to have had Covid-19 since April 27 was still very low, at just under two per cent of the population.

As the second wave took off, this jumped to 10 per cent by mid-December and 15 per cent by mid-January 2021.

The figure then rose slowly, reaching 25 per cent in early August and 40 per cent by the end of November.

When the Omicron wave started in December last year, the rate of the increase quickened sharply, with the proportion reaching 50 per cent by late December, 60 per cent by mid-January 2022 and 70 per cent by early February.

“We have endured a massive wave with Omicron, which is only now slowly subsiding,” Professor Naismith said.

“The six-month period to February 2022 saw a more than doubling in the percentage infected, compared to the 20-month spell from April 2020 to October 2021.

“Another way to say this is the majority of the most vulnerable people in the UK were infected after they had protection from vaccination.

He continued: “As a result of the vaccines, the Omicron infection was significantly less severe for the vaccinated individual.”

The ONS Covid-19 infection survey is seen as the most reliable measure of the prevalence of coronavirus across the country and of how many people have been infected at least once.

It is a nationally representative survey that tests a large sample of people each month.

The same people are retested, regardless of whether they have symptoms, which means the survey can identify both infections and reinfections as well as asymptomatic cases.

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