COVID-19: Supermarkets most common exposure setting for catching coronavirus in England, latest data suggests

Supermarkets are the most frequent common exposure setting for those catching COVID-19 in England, new data suggests.

Public Health England (PHE) collated the data using the NHS Test and Trace app.

By analysing the contacts and retracing the steps of the 128,808 people who’d reported they had tested positive between 9 November and 15 November, PHE has uncovered where transmission is likely to be happening.

During the increased national restrictions in England, supermarkets have remained open for shoppers. The new data set suggests they are now the primary setting where the disease is being transmitted.

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The second most common location reported by those who tested positive for COVID-19 were secondary schools, followed by primary schools, and then hospitals, and then care homes.

Of those who tested positive for COVID-19 in the days analysed by PHE, 18.3% of them said they had visited a supermarket.

Approximately 9,789 common locations were reported in total – of which the below list calculates the percentage of the most frequent.

Proportion of all common locations reported in PHE data:

  • Supermarket – 18.3%
  • Secondary school – 12.7%
  • Primary school – 10.1%
  • Hospital – 3.6%
  • Care home – 2.8%
  • College – 2.4%
  • Warehouse – 2.2%
  • Nursery preschool – 1.8%
  • Pub or bar – 1.6%
  • Hospitality – 1.5%
  • University – 1.4%
  • Manufacture engineering – 1.4%
  • Household fewer than five – 1.2%
  • General practice – 1.1%
  • Gym – 1.1%
  • Restaurant or cafe – 1.0%

In the most recent week, 124 clusters of COVID-19 were recorded in English secondary schools.

The total number of outbreaks in secondary schools in England is 822, while primary schools have recorded 732 clusters since records began.

Shopping, attending childcare educational settings and eating out were among the top three activities reported by people testing positive before experiencing any symptoms, the data showed.

While the number of contacts by exposure was shown to be highest among households and household visitors.

The PHE charts also suggest that infection rates appear to be levelling off or even declining in some parts of England, such as the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Cases are lower but are still rising in places such as London, the South East and the West Midlands.

The new data comes as government scientific advisers are warning that mixing at Christmas poses “substantial risks” – particularly for older people – and there is “far too much emphasis” on having a normal festive period.

Professor Andrew Hayward of University College London (UCL) said the country was “on the cusp” of being able to vaccinate older populations and it would be “tragic” to throw away the gains made in suppressing the disease.

Meanwhile, a leading World Health Organisation (WHO) official suggested families could meet for picnics in the park during the festive season, adding that this year will be “a different Christmas but that does not mean it cannot be a merry one”.

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