England sees record Covid prevalence in October

Covid-19 prevalence in England rose to its highest level on record in October, Imperial College London said, led by a high numbers of cases in children and a surge in the southwest of the country.
Nearly 6% of school-aged children had Covid-19, the researchers found, although there was a drop in prevalence towards the end of the study’s period coinciding with the closure of schools for the midterm holiday.
Despite that dip, researchers said rates had doubled in older groups compared to September, a concerning sign as the government races to give booster shots to the most vulnerable.
“We did see a doubling in that group, and clearly that’s the worry,” Paul Elliott, the Imperial epidemiologist who leads the programme, told reporters.
“It’s being driven from the young school age but it is going right across the whole population.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reopened England’s economy and is bidding to live with high levels of the coronavirus, saying that vaccinations have largely broken the link between cases and deaths compared to last winter.
The Imperial REACT-1 study estimated overall prevalence at 1.72% based on swabs collected between 19-29 October, compared to 0.83% in September.Prof Elliot said that the figure was higher than the study’s previously recorded high in January, though he noted that the study had not been in the field last December, when last winter’s wave might have peaked.
The Imperial study found there was nearly a four-fold increase in prevalence in the south-west, the area impacted by an error at a private lab that resulted in an estimated 43,000 people wrongly being given negative PCR test results.
Prof Elliott said that it was a “viable hypothesis” that the problems at the lab, run by a firm called Immensa, had contributed to the rise.
The study also found that 10.3% of sequenced swabs were of the Delta subvariant AY.4.2, which is under investigation by UK health authorities due to its growth in recent weeks, but has not been shown to cause more serious illness or evade vaccines
China monitors ports as it enforces restrictions
China is on high alert at its ports as strict policies on travel in and out of the country are enforced to reduce Covid-19 risks amid a fresh domestic outbreak, less than 100 days out from the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The National Immigration Administration (NIA) said today it would continue to guide citizens not to go abroad for non-urgent and non-essential reasons.
The dramatic drop in Chinese travellers since early last year has left a $255bn annual spending hole in the global tourism market.
The Chinese immigration authority also vowed to strictly implement restrictions on the movement of people involved in the Winter Olympics in and out of China.

People queue at a temporary vaccination site in Beijing, China

China aims to ensure no outbreaks among people arriving from overseas for the Winter Olympics, according to a recent state television report, citing Huang Chun, an official on the Beijing organising committee for the event.
Authorities will strive to avoid failures in virus control for the games that would then disrupt the event or lead to clusters among residents, Mr Huang said.
Covid curbs are also tightening in the Chinese capital ahead of a major gathering of the highest-ranking members of the Communist Party next week.
More than 700 locally transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms have been reported in China since mid-October in 19 province-level regions, with the geographical spread of the cases triggering a flurry of curbs on tourism and leisure businesses under Beijing’s zero-tolerance policy.
Officials say many cases in northwestern parts of China and a separate cluster in northeastern Heilongjiang province traced back to sources brought in from outside the country.
Checks on flights, ships as well as cargo at land ports will be strictly implemented, the immigration authority said.

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