UK COVID-19 Update: Latest Test Figures, and Reinfection Risk for Young People

Peter Russell

April 16, 2021

These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about today.

COVID Test Statistics

The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 fell across the UK in the week ending April 10.

Estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed numbers were:

  • England: 1 in 480 people

  • Wales: 1 in 920

  • Northern Ireland: 1 in 710

  • Scotland: 1 in 500

In England, the North West had the highest percentage of people testing positive.

The percentage of people testing positive in England decreased in most age groups except for school years 7 to 11, and for 50 to 69 year olds, where the trend was uncertain.

An ONS spokesperson commented: "It is encouraging that across the UK we have seen a decrease in the percentage of people testing positive in the latest time period, with rates now similar to what we saw in early September last year.

"Across England there was a mixed picture. Whilst we saw decreases in some regions, the majority of regions' trends remain uncertain, underlining the continuing need for caution."

Commenting on the figures for the Science Media Centre, Prof James Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said the survey results were "good news" and that "the lockdown has worked as expected, as has the vaccination campaign".

The positive sentiment was reflected by today's updated R number which is between 0.7 and 1 for England. Last week it was between 0.8 and 1.

The growth rate was between -6% and -1%, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

New Variant Under Investigation

A new variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been designated a Variant Under Investigation (VUI) by Public Health England (PHE).

The variant, first detected in India, includes a number of mutations including E484Q, L452R, and P681R.

PHE said it had identified 77 cases of the variant in the UK and that all appropriate public health interventions would be undertaken, including enhanced contact tracing.

This variant has been designated VUI-21APR-01, or B.1.617.

There are currently 7 VUIs being monitored in the UK, and 4 Variants of Concern (VOCs)

There is no agreed international naming system for variants.

Lockdown Figures

An increasing number of people said they had left home over the two weeks of Easter just ahead of lockdown restrictions being eased, according to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Of the 95% of adults who reported leaving home, reasons included:

  • Visiting a park or local green space (30%)

  • Visiting a beauty spot, beach, or landmark (10%)

  • Collecting takeaway food or drinks (15%)

The figures showed that 57% of over 16s met up with someone outside their household, childcare, or support bubble in the period April 7 to 11, up from 49% at the end of March to the first week of April.

The proportion of people travelling to work continued a gradual increase, up from 44% in mid-February to 53%.

Personal wellbeing levels remained stable, the ONS said.

The survey found that confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines remained high at 94%, although sentiment towards the vaccines was lowest amongst those aged 16 to 29, standing at 88%, similar to recent weeks.

Some lockdown restrictions were lifted in England on April 12.

Reinfection Risk for Younger People

Previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 does not fully protect young people against reinfection, according to new research.

The observational study in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal involving 3249 healthy members of the US Marine Corps, most of whom were aged 18 to 20, found that 10% who had previously been infected with the virus became reinfected.

That compared with new infections in 48% of people who had not previously been infected.

"This suggests that COVID-19 vaccination might be necessary for control of the pandemic in previously infected young adults," the study authors concluded.

Lockdown Restrictions Eased in Scotland

The Scottish Government said it was easing lockdown restrictions earlier than planned in an effort to improve mental health and wellbeing.

People in Scotland can now travel for non-essential reasons, such as outdoor socialising, recreation, and exercise.

Outdoor meetings in groups of up to 6 adults from up to 6 households are also now allowed.

The measure reflected "continued progress on vaccination against COVID-19 and suppression of the virus", the Scottish Government said.

A further easing of restrictions is planned from Monday April 26, when the whole of Scotland, including island communities, are due to move to Level 3.

"More generally, we currently expect the whole country to move to at least Level 2 on May 17, to Level 1 in early June, and to Level 0 in late June," First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

Booster Jabs

The chief executive of Pfizer, Albert Bourla, has predicted that people were "likely" to need a third booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine within 12 months of being fully vaccinated. Thereafter, an annual vaccination was possible, CNBC reported.

"A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a third dose, somewhere between 6 and 12 months and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed," he was reported saying. "And again, the variants will play a key role."

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

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