HARSHER restrictions could be needed after the nation’s biggest Covid infection survey showed lockdown had failed to drive cases down.
The React study by Imperial College London carried out swab tests on 142,900 volunteers between January 6 and 15.
It shows around one in 63 people now have the virus across England.
London was the worst hit area with one in 36 residents of the capital infected with Covid.
Worryingly, it shows cases did not drop over the ten day survey – unlike the start of the previous two lockdowns.
Scientists think the new, more contagious mutation may be to blame, and warn infections may not fall unless we do more.
Lead researcher Professor Paul Elliott, from Imperial College London, said: “Our data are showing worrying suggestions of a recent uptick in infections which we will continue to monitor closely.
“Infections must be brought down; if prevalence continues at the high rate we are seeing then hospitals will continue to be put under immense pressure, and more and more lives will be lost.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said sticking to the lockdown rules will help reduce spread.
He said: “These findings show why we must not let down our guard over the weeks to come.
“Infections across England are at very high levels and this will keep having a knock-on effect on the already significant pressures faced by our NHS and hospitals.
“It is absolutely paramount that everyone plays their part.
“This means staying at home and only going out where absolutely necessary, reducing contact with others and maintaining social distancing.”
It comes as hopes of beating Covid mounted last night with record numbers jabbed against the virus – as prayers went out to the 1,820 latest fatalities.
It is the highest number of deaths reported on a single day since the pandemic began.
But in a sign the tide is slowly turning, more than 343,000 people were immunised on Tuesday – up nearly 20,000 on the previous record.
With 4.6million vaccinations already done, Boris Johnson said Britain remains firmly on course to offer jabs to the nation’s 15million most vulnerable within weeks.
Speaking in the Commons, the PM said: “I can confirm that we are on track to deliver our pledge – to deliver a first vaccine to everyone in the top four cohorts by mid-February.
“But I must stress that it is very hard because of constrains on supply.”
It comes as cinemas, mosques and cricket clubs are now set to become pop-up vaccination centres under radical plans to accelerate roll out.
They will form part of a network of hundreds of pharmacies and local sites targeting hard-to-reach Brits.
By the start of next week, 67 chemists will be offering the vaccine as numbers continue to scale up.
Jabs are already available from over 1,000 GP-led services, more than 200 hospitals and 17 mass immunisation centres.
Three cathedrals – Salisbury, Blackburn and Lichfield – are among the sites helping to deliver the vaccination blitz.
Vaccines Minister Nadim Zahawi said: “It’s fantastic to see the vaccine programme expand so fast.
“Each week the NHS is making it easier for people to get a jab closer to home, in places at at the heart of their community, from the local pharmacy to the local mosque.”
Yesterday’s record of 1,820 daily Covid deaths took the UK total to 93,290.
The grim figure led Britain’s top scientist to warn the Covid crisis has left parts of the NHS resembling a “war zone”.
Sir Patrick Vallance said despite falling infections, Britain remains in a very “dangerous situation”.
He said the pressure on the NHS is “very, very bad at the moment…and in some cases it looks like a war zone in terms of the things that people are having to deal with”.
“You go for a walk in the park, life looks normal; you go for a walk in a hospital or if you work in a hospital, you will see life not looking normal at all.”
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Speaking on Sky News, the chief scientific adviser said lockdown measures may continue well into spring.
He also warned the jab will not do the “heavy lifting” in the short term, with social distancing and hand-washing key to stopping spread.
But Sir Patrick said there was now “light at the end of the tunnel”, with a slow release into summer as vaccination eased pressure on hospitals.
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Source: The Sun