One in 400 people in England has coronavirus, tests suggest

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One in 400 people in England is infected with coronavirus, a survey of 11,000 people in households suggests.

They were asked to carry out swab tests over the two weeks up to 10 May.

This indicates about 148,000 people in England could be currently infected – 0.27% of the population.

And this could help ministers calculate the reproduction (R) number, or transmission rate, of the virus and whether tracking the contacts of infected people is feasible.

The study is set to expand over time to test 25,000 people in private households across all four UK nations.

The 5,000 households tested in this survey did not include hospital patients or people living in care homes, where rates of Covid-19 are likely to be much higher, Office for National Statistics figures show.

Just 33 of the 11,000 people – in 30 households – tested positive in this snapshot survey.

Health or care workers in those households were several times more likely to be infected than workers in other sectors.

‘Good news for me but not enough to race out of lockdown’

This figure suggests my personal chances of catching the virus are quite low at the moment.

It may not be surprising to the experts modelling the data – but to those whose expectations have probably been set by the grim succession of headlines about record numbers of deaths and ever increasing numbers of infections, it might feel surprisingly small.

Remember, though, the best estimates are millions of people have had the coronavirus.

And this study tells us only about who has it right now – and so can pass it on.

This estimate of one in 400 people, outside of hospitals and care homes, means I’m unlikely to meet someone with the virus on a bus – but a Tube train probably has a few infected people if there is standing room only.

The figure also underlines the challenge for the government in trying to move out of lockdown.

Testing, contact tracing and isolation is currently our only tool other than social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

But one in 400 in a country the size of England equates to 150,000 people.

Imagine trying to trace the contacts of that many.

And, of course, while the survey suggests there are 150,000 infected people out there, it doesn’t tell us who they are.

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