The UK’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout has started to have a positive impact on public health, a newly released study has found. Virus infection rates have dropped sharply among the elderly, the most-vaccinated population cohort.
The new REACT study, run by scientists at Imperial College London, was published on Thursday. The research, based on PCR tests of over 140,000 volunteers in England, showed a fall of around 60% in infection rates in March, compared to February.
“This is hugely encouraging and shows we’re headed in the right direction. But we need to continue to approach the situation with caution,” Paul Elliott, director of the REACT programme, said in a statement.
The study’s results show that mere 0.2% of England’s population had coronavirus last month, compared to 0.49% during the previous period. Primary school children, aged between five and 12, had the highest rates at 0.41%, while the lowest rates were found among people aged over 65, at 0.09%. In February, schoolchildren aged between 13 and 17 had the highest incidence of the virus, measuring around 0.71%.
Such results are likely down to a combination of schools reopening and the Covid-19 vaccination drive, which in its early stages focused primarily on the elderly, the researchers said. Many schools began fully reopening across England in early March, and a further loosening of the restrictions is expected next week, with all shops and outdoor hospitality venues getting back into business.
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The study’s results have been welcomed by the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who said they clearly show the government’s approach to handling the coronavirus pandemic has been working.
“These findings are promising and illustrate the significant impact that lockdown, combined with our phenomenal vaccination programme, is having on the prevalence of this dreadful virus,” Hancock stated.
The UK remains among the worst-hit nations from Covid-19 in Europe, clocking up over 4.3 million coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 127,000 people have succumbed to the disease.
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