It is estimated that one in 11 people in England has developed antibodies against Covid-19, according to the latest data.
According to figures from the Bureau of National Statistics, a total of 3,914,000 people, or 8.7 percent of the population, would have returned a positive result if they had been tested for antibodies in November.
This is an increase from October’s estimate of 3.1 million, and more than double the government’s own analysis, which indicates that 1.85 million people have been infected with the virus to date.
The ONS said there was “substantial variation” in antibody positivity between different parts of England.
In London, an estimated 12.8% of the city’s population has antibodies in their blood. That figure stands at 10.1% in the North East, 10.9% in the North West and 11.1% in Yorkshire and The Humber – three of the hardest hit areas in the country.
The Southwest, by contrast, has an antibody positivity rate of 3.9%, suggesting that 179,000 people in the region have been exposed and recovered from the virus.
Outside England, the ONS estimates that 326,000 people in Scotland have antibodies (7.3%), 140,000 in Wales (5.5%) and 49,000 in Northern Ireland (3.3%) %).
It takes between two and three weeks for the body to produce enough antibodies to fight infection, but once a person recovers, these “search and destroy” proteins remain in the blood at low levels.
Over time, a person’s antibody count may decrease to the point that tests no longer detect them – although recent research has shown that immunity to Covid-19 lasts for at least eight months and could offer a form of natural protection for a number of years.
ONS estimates are based on thousands of blood tests performed by a trained professional in participants’ homes. The results of this survey are then extrapolated to the national population.
Sample analyzes are for specific people over 16 years of age and exclude those in hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions in England.
The 8.7% estimate is the highest since the ONS study began in May, at the height of the first wave.
Then 3.3 million people – or one in 14 people – would have had anti-coronavirus antibodies.
The latest ONS survey also found that people from ethnic minority groups had a higher risk of testing positive than their white counterparts in the following occupations: personal services, social services and industry. arts, entertainment and recreation.
In the East Midlands, ethnic minorities working in personal services were more than four times more likely to test positive for Covid-19.
The new findings come as the government prepares to place London under Level 3 restrictions following a sharp rise in infection rates.
Data released last week showed London’s case rate per 100,000 population was 191.8, putting the city ahead of areas with stricter rules, such as the West Midlands.
A country-wide review of the tier system is expected to take place on December 16, although London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said it is possible a decision on London could come as early as Monday.
“We have seen a sharp rise in the virus in recent days,” Khan told Sky News.