ONE in eight Londoners may have coronavirus antibodies – amid hopes that a high level of immunity is stopping a second wave in the capital.
The UK’s largest city has seen its daily case rate remain relatively stable as infections surge in the North of England.
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Recent data from Public Health England shows a prevalence of coronavirus antibodies among blood donors as high as 13.4 per cent.
This is far higher than other regions of the country such as the North East and Yorkshire, which show a 3.9 per cent prevalence while the rate in the South West stands at 3.5 per cent.
And despite large swathes of the North West being placed under local lockdown for the last month, the latest figures show antibody prevalence hovering at around 6.8 per cent in the past four weeks.
The statistics also show that, during the peak of the virus in March, antibody prevalence in London stood at 17.5%, suggesting that nearly a fifth of Londoners may have immunity.
Although the data provides hope that the capital could avoid a catastrophic second spike, it is not yet known how long coronavirus antibodies can prevent reinfection.
Professor Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, has previously said that scientists "don't know if you can get it again" and how long immunity might last.
But Professor Jon Cohen, Emeritus Professor of Infectious Diseases at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, said in March that it is “very likely"based on other viral infections that "once a person has had the infection they will generally be immune and won’t get it again."
The figures also underline the unequal geographical spread of the virus – as Boris Johnson prepares to announce tighter lockdown measures for some ten million Northerners tomorrow.
As part of a new three-tier lockdown system, hard-hit cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Nottingham could see hospitality venues close and a ban on overnight stays outside the home.
A recent study undertaken by Imperial College London scientists found that Northerners are now twice as likely to have coronavirus – with around one in 100 currently infected with the bug.
The study found that the ‘R’ rate has fallen to 1.16 nationally, but remains between 1.27 and 1.37 in Yorkshire, the West Mids and the North West.
But the ‘R’ rate is below one in London – meaning cases are falling in the capital.
Experts have cited a variety of factors behind the North-South divide, including population density and a higher number of Southerners living in rural areas.
According to the 2011 census, 35% of Southerners live in a rural area compared to just 26% in the Midlands and 19% in the North.
But it does not explain the capital’s relatively low infection rate – leading experts to suggest that a high prevalence of antibodies could be the reason for a smaller second wave.
It is also worth noting that cases are still rising in the capital despite a dramatically lower infection rate than the North and West Mids.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned that restrictions could be tightened should infections continue to rise.
Speaking to LBC, Mr Khan said he needed to be "straight" with Londoners by warning lockdown measures are likely to be brought in "very soon".
The West London borough of Richmond is currently the capital's worst hotspot, with an infection rate of 112.1 new cases per 100,000.
However it is still far below the UK's worst hit region which remains Nottingham with 830 cases per 100,000 in the seven days up to October 8.
And Liverpool has the third highest rate – which jumped from 504.4 last week to 598.5 this week after the city recorded 2,981 new cases.
Greater Manchester currently has an infection rate of 477.7 cases per 100,000 while Newcastle upon Tyne has a rate of 509.5 cases per 100,000.
Addressing the rise in infections, England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam today said the country is at a tipping point similar to the first wave of coronavirus.
He added: "Earlier in the year, we were fighting a semi-invisible disease, about which we had little knowledge, and it seeded in the community at great speed.
"Now we know where it is and how to tackle it – let's grasp this opportunity and prevent history from repeating itself."
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