A third pandemic lockdown appears to have little impact on the COVID-19 rate in England, researchers warned Thursday, with a prevalence of the disease "very high" and "no evidence of deterioration" in the first 10 days of renewed restrictions.
Until COVID-19 rates are reduced substantially, health services will "remain under extreme pressure," and the number of deaths will continue to rise rapidly, said researchers who lead Imperial College London's REACT-1 prevalence study.
“The number of COVID-19 patients (in the hospital) is extremely high right now, and we cannot expect it to decline unless we can achieve a lower prevalence,” said Steven Riley, a professor of infectious disease dynamics. who helped lead the work.
"The fact that (prevalence) is not going down may have serious consequences"
Prime Minister Boris Johnson put England in a third national lockdown on January 5, closing bars, restaurants and most schools and opening only essential stores.
Ministers have called on people to stay at home as much as possible to avoid overloading hospitals and to give authorities time to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for the elderly and those most at risk.
But in presenting his latest data – covering January 6 to January 15 – Riley said prevalence rates were 1.58%, the highest recorded by the REACT-1 study since it began in May 2020. This is a increase of more than 50% since the last reading in mid-December.
Riley also warned against putting immediate hope in COVID-19 shots.
"The vaccine will have only a very limited impact on prevalence in the short term," he told reporters.
Paul Elliott, an expert in epidemiology and public health medicine and director of the REACT program, said the persistent levels of COVID-19 infection may be due in part to a more transmissible variant of the virus that showed up late last year.
“We really need to double up on public health measures – wear face covers, keep your distance and wash your hands,” said Elliott. "There will be continued pressure until we can lower the prevalence."
The UK government reported a new record daily rise in deaths on Wednesday, with 1,820 people dying within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test. However, the number of new infections – 38,905 – was lower than a recent high of 68,053 on Jan. 8.
The Health Ministry said the full impact of the lockdown would not yet be reflected in the prevalence numbers, but added that the survey highlighted the importance of everyone staying at home and following the restrictions.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland. Additional reporting by Alistair Smout. Edited by Marl Potter)
Top Photo: View of an empty Shaftesbury Avenue around what would normally be the opening time of a theater, as London's theater land goes dark the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered public meeting places such as theaters, pubs and restaurants across the country to enter unprecedented measures to be taken to limit the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. . (Dominic Lipinski / PA via AP)
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