More than 400,000 in Merseyside ‘have had COVID-19’

New analysis estimates the true number of people across the Liverpool city region who have been infected with COVID-19 since March 2020 totals more than 400,000. Tony McDonough reports

coronavirus, disease, virus, flu, infection, COVID
COVID-19 may have already infected almost 200,000 people in Liverpool alone

 

More than 400,000 people across Liverpool city region may have already been infected with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March 2020, new modelling shows.

Analysis by specialist health analytics firm, Edge Health, estimates that, across England, up to 12.4m may have already had the virus. That is equivalent to 12.4m of the population, or 22%. However, it estimates in Liverpool this percentage could be as high as 38.8%, or almost 200,000.

So far the official infection figure for England, based on testing and tracing, is 2.4m. But experts say many more people will have been infected with the virus without being tested. A number may be unaware they have even had it.

But certain parts of the country, including London and the South East and Merseyside and the North West, have been hit much harder than the pandemic. Edge estimates that 38.8% of people in Liverpool, or 193,428 people, have been infected with COVID. The city has a population of just over 500,000 people.

Edge’s method of analysis is to estimate the the number of cases in local authority area by comparing its number of deaths against an estimated infection fatality rate. The model assumes a three-week lag between recorded cases and any associated deaths.

Liverpool is showing as having had the highest number of infections of any area outside of the South of England, just ahead of Manchester which has an estimated infection rate of 38.8%. Edge estimates 41,214 infections in Knowsley (27.7%), Sefton with 63,568 (23%), Wirral with 72,839 (22.5%) Halton with 28,375 (21.9%) and St Helens with 38,251 cases (21.2%). Total for the Liverpool city region is 437,675.

In the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham and Newham it is estimated around one in two people, well in excess of 300,000, may have already been infected with COVID-19 since last March.

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George Batchelor, the co-founder and director of Edge Health, told The Guardian: “Reported tests are only a fraction of the picture of total infections, which show how badly hit London and the North West have been during the pandemic. It is incredible that the level of understanding of where and how infections are occurring is not greater at this stage, since it would allow control measures to be more targeted.

“Even with imminent vaccinations, it is crucial to develop this understanding so that future variants of the virus can be effectively controlled and managed.”

Over the last few days public health officials in the Liverpool city region have urged people to follow the lockdown rules as cases continue to surge. Liverpool’s seven-day rate is now 661.2 cases per 100,000 people, up from 207.4 per 100,000 a week ago.

Matt Ashton, Liverpool’s director of public health and Chair of the multi agency intelligence cell of the Merseyside Resilience Forum, which is leading the regional response to the Covid-19 pandemic, said: “The next few weeks are going to be extremely difficult.

“Unfortunately it will be some time until we see the impact of the lockdown take effect. People need to stay at home as much as possible. Only leave the house when absolutely necessary. People need to stick to the rules, and ask themselves just because they can do something, that does not mean they should.”

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