Coronavirus: Growth in infections may be slowing, largest COVID-19 study in England suggests

The growth of coronavirus infections may be falling, early results from the largest COVID-19 study in England suggest.

Research by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori showed the R number, a key indicator which shows the coronavirus reproduction rate, fell from 1.7 to 1.1 since the beginning of the month.

The director of the study says this could mean that efforts like the “rule of six” and local lockdowns may be effective in slowing the virus – but also stressed the prevalence of the infection was still “the highest that we have recorded to date”.

The figures showed around one in 200 people were infected with coronavirus.

Professor Paul Elliot 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 most recent data was taken from tests on 80,000 volunteers between 18-26 September, and compared to a previous analysis from 24 August to 7 September.

It comes after the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned the country on Wednesday evening “we don’t have this under control at the moment”.

Boris Johnson warned that in order to avoid the country going back into a national lockdown was for everyone to “follow the guidance”.

The most recent figures from the government’s scientific advisory board SAGE put the R number between 1.2 and 1.5 as of an announcement on 25 September.

SAGE updates their number every Friday.

The Imperial study also revealed that one in 100 of people aged from 18-24 were infected – and that age range has the highest rate of any group.

It comes as at least 45 universities reported they had COVID-19 cases, according to Sky News analysis.

The full Imperial and Ipsos Mori study will be published next week.

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