English Covid-19 study finds record prevalence in January

England will, on Jan 27, ditch mask mandates and Covid-19 vaccine passes introduced to slow the spread of Omicron. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - An English Covid-19 study reported record prevalence in January after an Omicron-fuelled spike in infections, Imperial College London said on Wednesday (Jan 26), adding that infections have dropped back from their peak but are now plateauing.

England will, on Thursday, ditch mask mandates and Covid-19 vaccine passes introduced to slow the spread of Omicron. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has credited the success of Britain's booster roll-out and the lower severity of the variant as he aims to live with Covid-19.

Britain has so far recorded more than 150,000 deaths from Covid-19, and daily infections peaked during the Omicron wave.

Imperial found that prevalence of infections between Jan 5 and Jan 20 was 4.41 per cent, more than three times higher than it was in December last year.

Although prevalence decreased over the course of the month, the overall trend was unclear by the end of the study period, with cases rising in children and falling in adults.

"There is good news in our data in that infections had been rapidly dropping during January, but they are still extremely high and may have recently stalled at a very high prevalence," said Mr Paul Elliott, director of the Imperial REACT programme.

Omicron has also almost entirely displaced Delta, with only 1 per cent of sequenced swabs belonging to the formerly dominant variant.

It found prevalence of 2.43 per cent among over-75s, a lower proportion than in the population overall but still "a high level of infection among a highly vulnerable group", the researchers said.

Nearly 65 per cent of people asked reported that they had a confirmed previous infection. However, Mr Elliott said that while some of these could be reinfections, they could also be the same, recent infections being picked up a second time by the survey.

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