Around 3.4 million people might have been infected with the coronavirus or COVID-19, as per a major study that shows that the number of novel virus cases in the UK might be ten-fold higher than the official tally.
The researchers at the Imperial College London have conducted out a mass COVID-19 surveillance report, involving over 100,000 volunteers who used the home testing kits for checking antibodies that reveal if someone had earlier been infected.
The program stated that six percent of the population of England had been infected with COVID-19 by July 13. If the estimate was correct, it suggests that the coronavirus kills around 1.23 percent off all cases, which is twice as high as the WHO's latest mortality rate estimate of 0.6 percent.
COVID-19 in UK
The data from the Department of Health shows only 313,798 cases were detected since the outbreak started. But many people were not tested during the height of the crisis, due to either lack of swabs or they never had proper symptoms.
Thus counting of antibodies might be accurate to determine the number of people infected. However, research suggested that the antibodies decline three months after the infection. The new study is in line with the estimates from other studies of antibodies, including one by Cambridge University. According to Cambridge academics around eight percent of England had the disease. The researchers of the new study tracked the spread of the virus cases after the first peak.
The volunteers tested for antibodies at home between June 20 and July 13. The study suggested that a total of 13 percent of people living in London had COVID-19 antibodies, compared with less than three percent in the South West of England.
Around 17 percent of black volunteers had antibodies while Asian and other ethnic minorities had 12 percent each whereas in the case of white volunteers it was only five percent, according to the study. People aged 18-34 had the highest incidence of antibodies while more than 65 had the lowest rate.
Volunteers in most deprived areas were slightly more likely to have antibodies than the people in the wealthiest areas. Smokers were less likely to have antibodies than non-smokers. Health Minister Edward Argar stated that the study is an important development in Britain's fight against the virus.
"Large scale antibody surveillance studies are crucial to helping us understand how the virus has spread across the country and whether there are specific groups who are more vulnerable, as we continue our work to drive down the spread of the disease," Mr. Argar mentioned in a statement as quoted by the Daily Mail.
"We don't yet know that antibodies provide immunity to coronavirus, but the more information we can gather on this virus, and the easier we can make it for people to participate in these studies, the better equipped we will be to respond. The British public have already played a massive part in helping to keep the country safe and I'd urge them to consider signing up to one of the many vital surveillance studies taking place over the coming months as part of our national testing effort," he added.
The researchers stated that there was still no firm proof that the presence of antibodies meant could not be re-infected. Professor Graham Cooke, the lead of the research, said, "Using the finger-prick tests suitable for large scale home testing has given us clearest insight yet into the spread of the virus in the country and who has been at greatest risk. These data will have important implications as decisions to ease lockdown restrictions in England."
The deadly virus outbreak has created a major stir around the world in recent times infecting more than 20.6 million people globally and claimed the lives of over 749,000 people worldwide in more than 170 countries.