As the pubs and restaurants in England re-opened on 4 July, the results of the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) publication two days earlier provide a sobering reminder of the importance of social distancing because COVID-19 has still not gone away.
The ONS infection survey uses patient swab data and was established to determine the community prevalence of COVID-19 (excluding care homes and hospitals). To date, it has enrolled 17,139 households across England including 27,494 individuals. The intention is to continue monitoring over the next 12 months and to expand to all four UK nations. The most recent data covers the period 14 to 27 June 2020 and estimates that there were approximately 25,000 (confidence intervals 13,000 to 46,000) new infections per week in England, which equates to roughly 0.04% of the population of England or 1 in 2200 individuals. The study is also undertaking antibody testing and results suggest that 6.3% tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, which equates to around 2.8 million people in England.
Although the results of the latest survey indicate that the percentage of people in England testing positive has declined since the first measurement on 26 April, it appears that the downward trend has now levelled off with the ONS report concluding that “at this point in time, we do not have evidence that the current trend is anything other than flat”.