A massive antibody study in England has found that 3.4 million people, or 6 percent of the country’s population, have contracted the coronavirus.
The study of over 100,000 volunteers, which the government billed as the largest survey of its kind, indicated the seriousness of the outbreak varied among demographics and different areas across the country.
London, with a population of nearly 9 million people, was hit hardest, with 13 percent of residents having coronavirus antibodies. Less than 3 percent of residents in the South West region of England had the same results.
The study found high rates of antibodies among people working in “care homes” (16 percent) and the health care industry (12 percent), while antibody rates for Black people (17 percent) and Asian people (12 percent) were notably higher than those for white people (5 percent.).
Antibody rates were also higher among those aged 18-34 than 65 and older, and people living in households with more than 6 or 7 people were more than twice as likely to have antibodies than those living alone or with just one other person.
Of those who tested positive for antibodies, 32 percent reported having no COVID-19 symptoms.
The figures are the result of research involving 100,000 people testing themselves at home for coronavirus antibodies from June 20-July 13. The government maintained it has no firm proof that having antibodies translates into immunity for COVID-19.
“There are still many unknowns with this new virus, including the extent to which the presence of antibodies offers protection against future infections,” Graham Cooke of the UK National Institute for Health Research said, adding that the results will “have important implications as decisions to ease lockdown restrictions in England” are made.
Over 46,700 people have died in the entire United Kingdom from the coronavirus.
The study will be replicated later this year and is expected to test another 200,000 people for antibodies.
“Large scale antibody surveillance studies are crucial to helping us understand how the virus has spread across the country and whether there are specific groups who are more vulnerable,” Health Minister Edward Argar said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg. “We don’t yet know that antibodies provide immunity to coronavirus, but the more information we can gather on this virus, and the easier we can make it for people to participate in these studies, the better equipped we will be to respond.”