Coronavirus infections are rising fastest among the elderly in England as the country is hit by an “unprecedented” wave of Covid-19, a major study tracking the virus has found.
Despite signs that infections among children and younger adults may have peaked, the prevalence of Covid among people aged 55 and over reached 8.3 per cent late last month.
Around 6.4 per cent of people in England had Covid-19 between March 8 and 31, a record high of the pandemic, according to Imperial College London’s React-1 study published on Wednesday.
The latest infection figures in the UK are more than 40 percent above the previous peak recorded during the first wave of the Omicron variant in January.
Researchers said Covid infections reached “unprecedented levels” in March, warning that the “high and increasing prevalence among older adults could increase hospitalizations and deaths despite high vaccination rates”.
There are currently 20,398 hospital beds occupied by Covid patients in the UK, the highest level recorded this year. However, nearly three-fifths are treated primarily for another condition.
“We don’t yet know when we will see a peak in the oldest age group. . . and as these people are at greater risk of serious consequences, this is of particular concern,” said Christl Donnelly, professor of statistical epidemiology at Imperial College London, who co-authored the study of 110,000 participants.
The current wave of infections is the result of a combination of “more mixing” and “decreasing”. [vaccine] Protection against infection,” said Paul Elliott, professor of epidemiology at Imperial College London, who led the study.
The surge was also fueled by the Omicron BA.2 sub-variantwhich is 30 percent more transferrable than the original Omicron variant.
Despite rising case numbers, the UK Government has pushed ahead with its ‘Living with Covid’ strategy, ending universal free testing on April 1st and halting all remaining anti-Covid measures in England.
Imperial’s React-1 study, which government contract data says has cost £18million since September, is among a slew of research projects tracking the pandemic that have lost public funding in recent months.
The last round of results is the last one produced by the poll. Some experts have warned that the government’s strategy could make monitoring the pandemic more difficult and accelerate the spread of the virus.
Donnelly warned that due to the reduction in testing, it “might take a little longer” to detect new variants.
Elliott said he was “disappointed” that the study was coming to an end, but added that he was “very pleased” that surveillance of the virus continued through the Office for National Statistics Infection Survey.
Britain’s PCR lab’s capacity was more than halved to around 420,000 tests a day after free mass testing ended, according to the latest government data.
The Government has not renewed funding for King’s College London’s Zoe symptom tracker, which costs around £2.5million a year. The budget for the ONS Covid infection survey has been cut by 25 per cent but the study will continue for at least another year.
https://www.ft.com/content/08085e49-6d69-466b-b2a1-b8999b4e4b3c Covid infections are rising fastest among older groups in England