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  • Hill Kulu and Peter Dorey

    More than 5% of Britons have had Covid-19

    Between 5-6% of Britain’s population had been infected with Covid-19 by the last third of April, according to a new study from the University of St Andrews.

    Research by Professor Hill Kulu and Peter Dorey from the ESRC Centre for Population Change and School of Geography and Sustainable Development, found that England had higher infection rates than Scotland and Wales. In London, more than 10% of the population may have been infected. Overall, infection rates were highest in urban regions and lowest in small towns and rural areas.

    Their estimates of the cumulative infection rate are based on the Covid-19 deaths reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and National Records of Scotland (NRS) by the first third of May.

    Further statistical analysis showed that the virus infection rates were higher in more densely populated areas and areas with greater levels of deprivation. The results suggest that the people most affected by the spread of coronavirus in March and April were from lower socioeconomic groups in urban areas, including those with minority backgrounds.

    Professor Kulu said: “Our analysis shows that the cumulative infection rate may have been slightly smaller or larger, but very unlikely less than 3% or more than 12% unless our current knowledge on death rates from Covid-19 are seriously biased. Clearly, we are far from achieving the rapid ‘herd immunity’ as some have hoped. The good news is that, because the coronavirus is not widely spread, and the number of active cases has declined during the lockdown, its suppression and control is possible with various public health measures before the cure and vaccine become available."

    He continued: "We know that the virus has hit people from lower socioeconomic and ethnic minority backgrounds in the cities hardest. This is potentially due to the nature of their employment; many of them are in occupations exposed to the virus, such as transport and sales workers. It is important to ensure that our key workers, in whichever sector they work, are properly protected.”

    Peter Dorey said: “Our analysis showed that there are some areas in London where the cumulative infection rate was between 15% and 20%. In contrast, some remote and rural locations have not yet seen any infections. Looking ahead, it is important to ensure that, after easing the lockdown, the virus should not spread rapidly from the cities to rural areas and small towns with older populations. Our previous research has shown that the effects of Covid-19 spreading widely across the UK, for example in a possible second wave, could be devastating to remote and rural communities with elderly populations and minority languages and cultures.”

    Read the full preprint research papers:

    Infection rates from Covid-19 in Great Britain by geographical units: A model-based estimation from mortality data (SocArXiv DOI 10.31235/osf.io/84f3e)
    The contribution of age structure to the number of deaths from Covid-19 in the UK by geographical units (medRxiv DOI 10.1101/2020.04.16.20067991)

    Professor Kulu is available for interview.
    To arrange an interview please contact the University of St Andrews Communications Office in the first instance.
    Email: steve.bargeton@st-andrews.ac.uk
    Press Office: 01334 462530

    Posted 25/05/2020 08:44