The University of Oxford’s Evolutionary Ecology of Infectious Disease group found that far more people in the UK could have contracted coronavirus than previously thought
Coronavirus may have already infected more than half the UK population, researchers say.
University of Oxford Professor Sunetra Gupta said it could mean less than one in a thousand people who contract the disease will need hospital treatment.
The theoretical epidemiology expert added that large-scale anti-body testing surveys now need to take place to confirm how many people have been infected.
Research by Oxford’s Evolutionary Ecology of Infectious Disease group suggests coronavirus was spreading in the UK by mid-January.
It was transmitted between people for more than a month before the first official cases were recorded.
Despite the findings, Professor Gupta refused to criticise the Government’s approach, claiming social distancing will help to reduce stress on the NHS as less people will fall ill.
The study drew on death and case reports from the UK and Italy, the Financial Times reports.
It may spark fresh debate over the Government’s ‘herd immunity’ strategy, which envisioned a large proportion of the population getting the infection to end the outbreak.
However, if the Oxford research is correct, up to 50 per cent of the population could have caught the disease, meaning the lockdown could be lifted earlier than expected.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, previously said about 60 per cent of the population need to contract Covid-19 and recover for there to be herd immunity.
Oxford, Cambridge and Kent universities plan to carry out antibody testing on the public later this week.