Local residents and visitors shop on Peascod Street on Aug 27, 2020 in Windsor, United Kingdom.
Mark Kerrison | In pictures | Getty Images
So-called “silent spreaders” of the coronavirus could occur more frequently than previously assumed. A UK study found that more than two-thirds of people who tested positive for the virus were asymptomatic on the day of the test.
University College London researchers examined data collected by the UK’s statistical agency, the Office for National Statistics, which regularly collected coronavirus test data from thousands of UK households during the pandemic as part of its “Infection Survey”. The survey tests households to see whether they have symptoms or not.
The peer-reviewed study examined 36,061 people who carried out a coronavirus test as part of the infection survey between April 26 and June 27, 2020. 86.1% of the people who tested positive for the virus gave no “core”. Symptoms related to the virus (cough, fever, or loss of taste and / or smell) on the day the test was performed. Of the 115 people who got a positive coronavirus result, only 16 reported the main symptoms we associate with the virus.
Researchers Irene Petersen and Andrew Phillips concluded in the study published Thursday in the Clinical Epidemiology Journal that “Covid-19 symptoms are bad markers for SARS-CoV-2 (the new coronavirus)”.
“In order to reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, it is important to identify those who are infectious. However, little is known what percentage of infectious people are asymptomatic and potential ‘silent’ transmitters,” the researchers noted firmly.
The results of the study indicated that “a more extensive testing program is needed to capture the” silent “transmission and potentially prevent and reduce potential outbreaks,” they argued.
Test programs have had mixed success in Europe. While Germany has been praised for its extensive testing program and track and trace system to contain outbreaks, the UK has taken a while to accelerate the widespread testing and has stood by under pressure from rapidly increasing demand for testing and delays processing.
The UK’s Track & Trace app has also been delayed to launch, and the government was last under fire when it was found it had “missed” thousands of positive cases due to a data error.