Here are some of the main theories on the differences between regions of Great Britain in Covid-19 infection rates.
If enough people had developed immunity to Sars-CoV-2, preventing the virus from spreading freely, Londoners could have breathed a little easier. But the herd’s level of immunity to this coronavirus is estimated at 60% of a population, and the latest data from Public Health England suggests that only 17.5% of Londoners have antibodies to it.
It is possible that some people have immunity to T cells, which can build up independently of antibodies. It is also possible that some pockets of London have a higher prevalence of antibodies than others, but this is still unlikely to reach herd immunity levels.
David Alexander, professor at the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, University College London, said: “My reading tells me that herd immunity cannot be achieved without a vaccine.”
Work at home
London has a large number of white-collar workers and a relatively small number of people working in manufacturing, retail and wholesale jobs, compared to other parts of the UK. Many office workers can, and currently work, remotely.
Not everyone could better self-isolate by working from home, but this move could be enough to reduce infection rates, said James Cheshire, professor of geographic information and mapping at UCL.
Public transport is much less congested and mixed. An analysis of people’s activity patterns by Cheshire and colleagues suggested that people were still taking far fewer trips to central London than before the lockdown, as other cities moved closer to normal in such movements.
“I think the interesting question for London is whether the mixing that is happening in households is what is causing the current increase in cases that we are seeing,” he said. If so, the level 2 restrictions, which prohibit socializing indoors, could have a significant impact.
Londoners more cautious about socialization
Although compliance with social distancing guidelines was initially high across the UK, it is possible that residents of London, concerned about the high rates of coronavirus infection in the spring, have become more cautious during the visit public spaces such as restaurants, shopping centers, museums and cinemas.
Anonymized data collected by Google, from apps such as Google Maps, suggests that, compared to January 2020, visits to these places have fallen by 30% and 31% in Merseyside and Greater Manchester, while in Greater London, they fell by 39%.
However, Alexander, the UCL professor, pointed out that greater public caution has been observed in Italy as the country again experiences a dramatic increase in Covid-19 cases.
Greatest deprivation in the north of England
More than half of the worst affected areas of Birmingham and Manchester are among the poorest in England; in Liverpool it’s closer to two-thirds. It has been established that people in poor areas are more likely to be exposed to Sars-CoV-2.
Muge Cevik, virologist at the University of St Andrews, said: “Those who have lower paying jobs and who face the public are often classified as essential workers who have to work outside the home and may find themselves. commuting to work on public transport. ” Job and financial insecurity could also make people less inclined to comply with social restrictions, while overcrowded households could make self-isolation more difficult.
Calum Semple, a consultant respiratory pediatrician at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool and a member of the Sage, said: “People say viruses don’t discriminate. This is a fundamental misconception – viruses discriminate against the most vulnerable parts of our society. ”
London has pockets of extreme deprivation and overcrowding. But Richard Harris, professor of quantitative social geography at the University of Bristol, said: “The nature of the jobs there and the nature of the wealth there for some people has made London adapt differently. [compared with] other places. ”
Whether that would be enough to protect capital from the full brunt of a second wave was uncertain. “Things are in their favor, but I don’t think we can take it for granted,” Harris said. “Also, while the capital itself might be spared the full blow of a second wave, I’m not sure the same can be said of everyone inside the capital. . There are people who are just as vulnerable in London as in other cities. “
When to end lockout restrictions
Another possibility is that infection rates in cities in northern England have never been as low as they were in London and the south during the nationwide lockdown, so once those restrictions were relaxed, the “embers” rekindled the northern regions. Analysis from Public Health England found that parts of Manchester, Bolton, Oldham and Rochdale never really left the epidemic phase despite the imposition of social restrictions.
Less impact of the virus in some cities
Cities in southwest England avoided a major first wave, and until recently the number of known cases of infection had remained relatively low. Relatively low population densities, poor public transport infrastructure and proximity to the countryside were all possible explanations.
“Bristol is also a fairly wealthy city and it’s largely self-sufficient, so it doesn’t attract a lot of residents like the cities of the Midlands or London do,” Harris said.
The Bristolians should not be complacent, however. The city’s infection rate is on the rise and stands at 120 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants. “There is a random element to that, because all you need is a super-spreader event in a city and if you don’t spot it early enough you can have a big problem on your hands very quickly,” he said. Harris said.