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Wednesday 8th April 2020

Coronavirus: Half of UK may have been infected, researchers say

Significant levels of herd immunity?

Half of people in the UK might already have been infected with coronavirus, experts have said.

Researchers at Oxford University revealed on Wednesday (March 25) that Britain's COVID-19 epidemic may have started earlier than believed.

As a result, more than half of all Brits could already have immunity to the flu-like bug.

Researchers think coronavirus may have already infected half of the UK (Credit: WP Pix /

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They wrote that as the UK's epidemic could have started by mid-January at the latest, infections around the country might "have already led to the accumulation of significant levels of herd immunity".

The researchers' findings, which are yet to be peer-reviewed, are based on assumptions about the disease's most likely characteristics.

The vast majority could experience no illness

They suggest that the vast majority of those with COVID-19 could experience little or no actual illness, with as few as 0.1 per cent requiring hospital treatment.

As little as 0.1 per cent of people may require hospital treatment for COVID-19 (Credit:

Theoretical epidemiology professor Sunetra Gupta, who led the study, said coronavirus could have 'crept through' the UK population for months.

She also called for the government to carry out large-scale antibody testing as soon as possible, to discover how widely COVID-19 had travelled through Britain.

It follows reports that coronavirus home testing kits could soon be available.

Brits with symptoms will have the testing kids they need in just a few days, rather than weeks or months.

The accumulation of significant levels of herd immunity.

That's according to health officials, who revealed this week they had ordered millions of kits and planned to distribute them "within days".

Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England, said: "Several million tests have been purchased for use. These are brand new products.

Home testing kits are on their way

"Once they have been tested this week and the bulk of tests arrive, they will be distributed into the community."

Speaking to MPs, she said that if there is a charge for home testing, she believes it will be minimal.

Prof. Sharon Peacock said the UK government had ordered several million testing kits (Credit: Public Health England / YouTube)

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the kits are antibody tests. This means they allow people to see if they have already had coronavirus.

He said they "will allow people to see whether they have had the virus and are immune to it and can go back to work".

This means it will be particularly important for NHS workers who need to know whether or not they are able to return to work and continue treating COVID-19 patients.

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