Three quarters of children aged 5 to 14 in England have been infected with Covid, experts estimate – but the epidemic in youngsters now appears to be retreating.
Nowcasting data from the MRC Biostatistics Unit (BSU), at the University of Cambridge, suggests that nearly half of children under 15 caught the virus between the beginning of September and October 20 – taking the total infected to 76 per cent.
The huge number of infections in school-age children has been largely behind the steep rises in case rates over the past month, but scientists now suspect the virus is running out of susceptible youngsters to infect.
Latest data from the UK Government’s coronavirus dashboard show that positive tests are now falling, in line with modelling from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) which forecast a sharp drop around the start of November.
The BSU data also shows that around 55 per cent of children aged 1 to 4 have been infected, as well as 71 per cent of people aged 15 to 24.
Separate analysis by The Daily Telegraph reveals cases have peaked for the under-20s and have started to fall.
The rolling daily average hit 134.4 cases per 100,000 on October 19 and has since dropped 2.5 per cent to 131.1 per 100.000.
The biggest decrease over the period was among children aged 10 to 14, with a fall of nearly 3 per cent.
Meaghan Kall, an epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency, cautioned that the October half-term could be driving some of the decline, but said that the high numbers infected may suggest the children’s epidemic was waning.
“I am prepared to bet that England has seen the peak of cases in children,” she wrote on social media.
The high protection rates in children and young people has led experts to call on the Government to prioritise older groups for booster vaccination rather than children and young people.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics yesterday showed that although 99 per cent of the 70 to 79 year olds are fully vaccinated, only 86 per cent still have antibodies, demonstrating a worrying waning of immunity over time.
Similar falls are seen in those aged 60 to 69 and the over-80s.
In contrast, 92 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds have antibodies, even though just 81 per cent are double jabbed.
Duncan Cook, head of analysis for the Covid-19 Infection Survey said: “Antibody positivity remains high across the UK population.”
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