The UK’s third national lockdown is not having a big enough impact on the number of people contracting Covid, with “no evidence of decline” so far, according to a new study.
Researchers are warning that more needs to be done to reduce the number of infections and take pressure off the health service.
The REACT-1 study, which is run by researchers at Imperial College London, found that the prevalence of Covid-19 was 1.58 per cent between 6 and 15 January - the highest recorded rate, and an increase of 50 per cent mid-December.
This equates to around one in 63 people in England, with the rate higher in London, at around one in 36 people.
The prevalence rate indicates how many people are thought to have the virus at any one time, which is calculated by surveying more than 142,000 volunteers in England.
There are even concerns that, far from seeing cases and hospitalisations going down, there could be a “recent uptick”.
‘Wear face coverings, keep your distance, wash your hands’
These findings come as the UK registered its highest daily death rate yet during the pandemic, with 1,820 people dying within 28 days of a positive test on 20 January.
Director of the Imperial College study, professor Paul Elliot, said: “Our data are showing worrying suggestions of a recent uptick in infections which we will continue to monitor closely.
“To prevent our already stretched health system from becoming overwhelmed infections must be brought down.
“We’ve really got to double down on the public health measures - wear face covers, keep your distance and wash your hands. There will be continued pressure until we can get the prevalence down.”
Some experts have suggested that the studies findings point to workplace transmission as being a significant driver, as infections dropped during the Christmas and New Year period, followed by a rise afterwards when people returned to work in early January.
One of the study’s lead researchers, Steven Riley, said: “The number of Covid-19 in-patients (in hospital) is extremely high at the moment, and we can’t expect that to drop unless we can achieve lower levels of prevalence.
“The fact that [prevalence] is not going down has potentially serious consequences.”