At least 70% of people in the England have had COVID, new analysis has revealed.
Data compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show an estimated 38.5 million people had COVID over a near two-year period between 27 April, 2020 and 11 February this year.
This equates to 70.7% of people in England who were infected, with 29.3% - about 11.5 million people - never having had the virus.
The estimates for the rest of the UK are as follows:
Wales: 1.7 million people had COVID between 30 June, 2020 and 11 February this year, equating to 56% of the population.
Northern Ireland: 1.3 million people had COVID between 27 July, 2020 and 11 February this year, equating to 72.2% of the population.
Scotland: 2.7 million people had COVID between 22 September, 2020 and 11 February this year, equating to 51.5% of the population.
The figures are likely to be an underestimate of the current picture.
Friday’s ONS figures do not include the very beginning - and the most recent two months - of the pandemic.
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Prof James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said: “The total number of infected people was rising rapidly when the data stopped. The bottom line is the majority of people in the UK have had COVID [and] in some regions of England today I would predict the portion of those who have had COVID will easily exceed 80%.”
Prof Naismith went on to say “everyone” is likely to encounter the virus with the lifting of restrictions and transmissibility of Omicron.
“Omicron is a very fit virus,” he said. “Given the decision to lift restrictions, Omicron will infect everyone susceptible to the virus in the UK. From a healthcare system viewpoint, the slower the spread the easier it is to manage and the more time there is to vaccinate.”
The estimates were built using test results from 535,116 participants of the ONS infection survey, each of which were regularly tested for the virus through the duration of their time in the study. The survey, which is updated every week, is considered the gold standard in monitoring the prevalence of COVID in the community.
All positive and negative tests were then modelled to form the predictions on how many people have been infected.
The latest ONS weekly infection survey, meanwhile, shows how millions of people are still being infected. As of the week ending Saturday, the ONS estimated 3.2 million people in England had COVID, equating to one in 17 people.