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Herd immunity: only one in ten Brits had Covid-19 antibodies by December

New ONS data shows that majority of population are still at risk of infection

The number of people in the UK testing positive for Covid-19 antibodies is not rising quickly enough for natural herd immunity to develop, new data from the Office for National Statistics suggests.

An estimated one in ten people had immunity against the coronavirus in December, according to latest infection survey figures.

In October, antibody positivity - which indicates past infection with the virus - ranged from 2% to 7% across Britain. By last month, those totals had risen to 12% in England, 10% in Wales, 9% in Scotland and 8% in Northern Ireland

But in a blow to advocates of herd immunity, experts say that antibodies are still a long way from being widespread enough to lower infection rates.

A study published by John Hopkins University last year found that to reach herd immunity for Covid-19, around 70% or more of the population would need to have antibodies.

“In addition, while having antibodies can offer protection against reinfection, it is not yet known what levels are needed to reduce the chance of getting Covid again,” says The Guardian.

And antibody levels decline over time, so infection may not provide long-term protection.

Professor Danny Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College London who was not involved in the ONS survey, told the newspaper that “this is a dynamic picture - many who were infected during the March-April peak may no longer appear positive”.

Echoing warnings from other specialists, Altmann said that the number of people in the UK with antibodies was “not rising quickly, meaning natural herd immunity had not developed and that vaccines remained crucial to tackling the disease”, The Guardian adds.

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