Coronavirus cases amongst over 65s rise sevenfold, study finds

Imperial College London testing

Coronavirus infection rates amongst people aged 65 and older has risen sevenfold in England, a new report has found.

According to the interim report from the largest community COVID-19 testing programme, infection rates have risen across all ages, but the biggest rise in cases was found in those aged over 65, which saw seven times as many cases as previously.

A similar increase was found in those aged between 55-64. 

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The REACT-1 (REal-time Assessment of Community Transmission) study, led by Imperial College London, is tracking current cases of COVID-19 in the community by testing more than 150,000 randomly-selected people each month over a two-week period. Over 80,000 volunteers have been tested so far.

Results from swab tests taken between September 18 and 26 estimated that over 1 in 200 people across England have the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or 0.55% of the population, compared to 0.13% in the previous round of testing.

Researchers said the reproduction (R) number decreased from 1.7 to 1.1, but with a wide possible range for the recent value of 0.7 to 1.5. This suggests that the rate of new infections has decreased, but an R above 1 would mean cases will continue to rise if current trends continue.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT programme at Imperial, said: “While our latest findings show some early evidence that the growth of new cases may have slowed, suggesting efforts to control the infection are working, the prevalence of infection is the highest that we have recorded to date.

“This reinforces the need for protective measures to limit the spread of the disease and the public’s adherence to these, which will be vital to minimise further significant illness and loss of life from COVID-19.”

The final report and its findings for all 150,000 volunteers tested between September 18 and October 5 is scheduled to be published this week.

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Sarah Clarke

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