Findings From Latest COVID-19 REACT-1 Study Published

Findings from the twelfth report of REACT-1, one of the country’s largest studies into COVID-19 infections in England, have been published today (Thursday 17 June) by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI.

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  • Kelly Beaver Managing Director, Public Affairs
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  • Almost 109,000 volunteers tested in England between 20 May and 7 June 2021 as part of one of the most significant COVID-19 studies in the world
  • Findings from Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI show infections have increased by 50% since the last REACT-1 study in March, with 1 in 670 people infected
  • Despite the success of the vaccination rollout, report shows the prevalence of COVID-19 infections was rising rapidly during late May and early June, coinciding with Delta becoming the dominant variant 

Findings from the twelfth report of REACT-1, one of the country’s largest studies into COVID-19 infections in England, have been published today (Thursday 17 June) by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI. 

Almost 109,000 volunteers were tested with PCR tests in England between 20 May and 7 June to examine the levels of COVID-19 in the general population. The latest data show infections in England have increased by 50% since the last REACT-1 report period, between 15 April and 3 May. 

The main findings from the twelfth round of the REACT study show:

  • between rounds 11 (15 April-3 May) and 12 (20 May-7 June), national prevalence has increased from 0.10% to 0.15%;
  • exponential growth with a doubling time of 11 days and an R number of 1.44 in England during round 12; 
  • the highest prevalence was found in the North West at 0.26%, up from 0.11% in round 11; and lowest prevalence in round 12 was in the South West at 0.05%;
  • when comparing all REACT studies, at the beginning of February the link between infection rates and deaths was starting to break, however, the correlation between infection rates and hospital admissions started to return in late April 2021; and
  • prevalence is highest in 5-12 and 18-24 year olds, rising from 0.16% to 0.35% and from 0.10% to 0.36% respectively;
  • prevalence in those aged 5-49 was 2.5 times higher at 0.20% compared with those aged 50 and above at 0.08%; 
  • when split by age groups (65 and over, 64 and under), the link between infection rates and deaths for the older age group continues to break, but there is a growing correlation between infections rates and hospitalisation and deaths in those aged 64 and under, who are less likely to be vaccinated.

This latest REACT-1 report also details which variants were detected in swab-positive test samples. Data suggest most COVID-19 infections are now the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant. Public Health England’s (PHE) latest weekly data also shows cases of Delta now account for 90% of UK cases.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

These findings highlight the stark context in which we took the difficult decision to delay Step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown. 

 

Cases are now rising, but thanks to our incredible vaccination programme and enhanced response package including surge testing, we have the tools to curb the spread of this virus. 

 

We all must hold our nerve that little bit longer to make sure we can reach our new target of 19 July. I urge everyone to keep observing hands, face, space and fresh air, and make sure you receive both doses of the vaccine for the best possible protection.”

 

New data published this week by PHE shows the AstraZeneca vaccine is 92% effective against hospitalisation from the Delta variant after two doses, and the Pfizer vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalisation after two doses.

On Monday, the government confirmed a delay to unlocking Step 4 of the roadmap which means all current legal limits on social interactions and restrictions on large events, performances and life events (with the exception of weddings) will stay in place until 19 July, giving the population more time to be protected from COVID-19 through vaccination. 

The government continues to work in close partnership with local authorities to deliver enhanced support – surge testing, cautious guidance, and extra resources for vaccination - for areas where the Delta variant is spreading fastest. As a result of this additional support package, cases in Bolton have fallen by almost a third over the past three weeks and even as hospitalisations have risen across the North West, in Bolton they’ve fallen by more than half. Enhanced support is currently in place for Greater Manchester and Lancashire to Birmingham, Blackpool, Cheshire, including Warrington, and the Liverpool City Region. 

 

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT programme from Imperial’s School of Public Health, said:

We found strong evidence for exponential growth in infection from late May to early June in the REACT-1 study, with a doubling time of 11 days on average for England. These data coincide with the Delta variant becoming dominant and show the importance of continuing to monitor infection rates and variants of concern in the community.

 

Kelly Beaver, Managing Director, Public Affairs at Ipsos MORI said: 

The rise in cases picked up by the REACT-1 study is concerning and is being fed into government decision making in real time. While the rise is small, the increase of the R number to over one highlights that number’s potential to increase rapidly, an important reminder to get vaccinated when you can. I’d like to thank the almost 2 million members of the public who’ve taken part in the REACT-1 study since it began a year ago for helping provide this crucial piece of evidence to government.

 

This report is the latest from the REACT-1 study which was commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care and carried out by a world-class team of scientists, clinicians and researchers at Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Ipsos MORI.

Robust population surveillance studies like this are essential to understanding the rate of COVID-19 infection, how the virus is spreading across the country and the impact of measures taken to contain the virus in order to inform current and future actions.

The author(s)

  • Kelly Beaver Managing Director, Public Affairs

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