Nicola Davis reports that the proportion of people in England with coronavirus antibodies dropped by more than a quarter in the space of three months, fuelling concerns over reinfection.
The findings come from the React-2 study, which is based on home finger-prick antibody test results from random participants across all 314 local authorities.
The first results, based on data from 100,000 people, were released in August, revealing that about 6% of the population of England had the antibodies – protective proteins produced in response to an infection – although the team say that could be a slight underestimate.
The new work – not yet peer-reviewed – extends this with more testing in two fresh cohorts, each yielding results from more than 100,000 adults.
The results reveal that just 4.4% of those tested in the most recent round, between 15 and 28 September, had detectable coronavirus antibodies.
Graham Cooke, co-author of the report and professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London, said:
As a whole, these data suggest the possibility that decreasing population immunity will lead to an increased risk of reinfection as detectable antibodies decline in the population.
The Liverpool city region mayor Joe Anderson has said he would back tier 4 restrictions “if necessary” to bring infection rates down.
The city is one of five northern locations currently under the nation’s strictest level of lockdown measures due to a surge in coronavirus cases.
In an interview with BBC Breakfast, Anderson, whose brother Bill was one of 61 people in the city to die after contracting the virus in one week, said he is not opposed to the introduction of “tougher measures if necessary”.
He told the programme:
[The pandemic] has taken untold damage on people’s wellbeing and a huge toll on families where people have died. If anything was required to bring it down faster I would do that. However, I want to make sure that we are giving tier three a chance to see if the measures have an impact.
Anderson added he would review the results of the current tier 3 restrictions in 14 to 16 days’ time to determine whether they had gone far enough in halting the spread of the virus.
PM under pressure as former red wall Tory MPs demand coronavirus exit strategy for north
Good morning. Leading the front pages today is the letter sent to the prime minister by more than 50 Conservative MPs in parts of the north of England – many from former “red wall” seats won in the last election – that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, demanding a “clear roadmap” for exiting lockdown restrictions and arguing that Covid-19 “has exposed in sharp relief the deep structural and systemic disadvantage faced by our communities”.
More regions were placed under the toughest coronavirus restrictions on Monday, meaning 8.2 million people in England – one in seven – will soon be living under tier 3. Of these, 92% are in the north of England. In the letter, the 55 MPs express fears that the government’s “levelling up” is being abandoned and warn of economic hardship “with no end in sight” without a regional recovery plan.
Here is our north of England editor Helen Pidd’s report:
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