Around 1 in 10 people in the UK had Covid in 2020 - latest data explained

Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 11:02 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 11:02 am

Around one in 10 people living in the UK had contracted coronavirus as of December 2020, according to new figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

England is thought to have the highest proportion of people who have already contracted the virus, at around one in eight.

The figure is thought to be lower for each of the other nations of the UK, with at least one in 10, one in 11 and one in 13 people thought to have had the virus in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.

The estimated figure - based on a study carried out by a number of institutions including the University of Oxford - suggests an increase from one in 11 back in November.

The figures are based on an estimate of what proportion of the population would have tested positive for antibodies in December.

The Covid-19 Infection Survey analysis was produced by the ONS in partnership with the University of Oxford, University of Manchester, Public Health England and the Wellcome Trust.

What does it mean to test positive for antibodies?

To test positive for antibodies means that the individual has contracted the virus at some point, as antibodies are released by the immune system to try and fight off the virus and then remain present in the body for some time afterwards.

Antibodies in the blood do decline over time, suggesting that there will be some people who have had the virus but would not have produced a positive test on an antibody test in December, meaning the true figure for people who have had the virus is likely higher.

ONS data does not include people in care homes and hospitals - another factor which suggests the true proportion of the whole population to have been infected with the virus is likely higher.

The number of people likely to have had the virus differs across the UK, as well as the different regions of England.

Here is the proportion of people likely to have had the virus in each part of UK:

  • Yorkshire and Humber: 19.3%
  • London 17.9%
  • North West 16.8%
  • West Midlands 16.5%
  • East Midlands 14.9%
  • North East 15%
  • England (Average) 12.7%
  • Wales 9.8%
  • South East: 9.7%
  • East of England: 9.4%
  • Scotland: 8.9%
  • Northern Ireland 7.8%
  • South West: 6.2%