Around one in seven people in England would have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies by mid-January, figures suggest.
Data from blood studies from private households suggests a rise in the number who have had coronavirus in England – up from an estimated one in nine people in December and one in 11 in November.
The figures come from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Covid-19 Infection Survey and do not include people in care homes, hospitals or other institutions.
The analysis carried out by the ONS is based on blood test results taken from a randomly selected sample of over-16s,
The ONS said it had found “substantial variation” in the proportion of people estimated to have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies across the regions.
Here’s what they were across England, in descending order:
- London – 21%
- West Midlands – 18.8%
- Yorkshire and the Humber – 18.7%
- North-west England – 18.1%
- North-east England – 16.2%
- East Midlands – 15.7%
- Eastern England – 10.8%
- South-east England – 10.2%
- South-west England – 8.3%
Although the sample sizes for the study are much smaller than seen in England, the ONS has also released similar estimates for antibodies across the rest of the UK.
In Wales, an estimated one in nine people would have tested positive for antibodies against Covid-19 on a blood test in the 28 days up to January 18, 2021, suggesting they had the infection in the past.
In Northern Ireland, this figure is estimated to be one in 11, and in Scotland one in 10.
Experts have found that it takes two to three weeks for the body to make enough antibodies to fight the infection – but that, once a person recovers, antibodies remain in the blood at low levels and can help protect individuals from getting the same infection again.
A new study, published on Wednesday, reveals coronavirus antibodies last for at least six months after infection for the majority of people who have had the virus.
The study from UK Biobank, the UK’s major biomedical database and research resource, looked at how long antibodies persisted in those who were infected.
According to the study, 99% of participants who had tested positive for previous infection retained coronavirus antibodies for three months after being infected, while 88% did so for the full six months of the study.
However, since coronavirus has been in the UK for significantly longer than six months, it is not possible to say based on this study alone how many people in the country have had Covid-19 in total.