LONDON (REUTERS) - The prevalence of coronavirus infections in England has halved since March, helped by the swift roll-out of vaccines, but new variants remain a threat, according to the findings of a closely watched survey released on Thursday (May 13).
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday gave the green light to hugging and the serving of pints inside pubs from next week after months of strict restrictions as he set out the next phase of easing the pandemic lockdown.
The React study, run by scientists at Imperial College London, found that the number of infections has fallen again with an average of only one in 1,000 people infected.
"Today's findings demonstrate the impact our incredible vaccination roll-out is having on Covid-19 infection rates across the country," said Mr Matt Hancock, the health minister.
"We're going in the right direction but with variants present, we must continue to exercise caution." The study does not cover Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which each have their own case tracking.
The React study is one of the biggest Covid-19 surveys of its kind in England, with more than 127,000 volunteers tested in England between April 15 and May 3 in the latest round.
Overall, national prevalence in England dropped to 0.1 per cent from 0.2 per cent in March. The estimated prevalence is similar across regions of England.
Infections are highest among those aged 25 to 34 at 0.21 per cent, and lowest in those over 75 at 0.05 per cent, the study found.
The data showed 92 per cent of infections were from the B117 variant, first detected in England last year, and 7.7 per cent were from the B16172 variant, first identified in India.
Surge testing is being carried out in areas in England where evidence indicates community spread of infections.