Nine in ten adults now have Covid antibodies as the vaccine rollout pushes Britain close to herd immunity, official data shows.
Blood testing by the Office for National Statistics found 89.8 per cent of over-16s in England have some immunity to the virus.
This is up from 79.6 per cent in May, reflecting the success of the vaccine rollout.
Antibodies are produced after vaccination or infection and fight off the virus.
The ONS data is based on tests of tens of thousands of adults in the week beginning June 14.
Nine in ten adults now have Covid antibodies as the vaccine rollout pushes Britain close to herd immunity, official data shows
Antibody levels were highest in older adults – 97 per cent of those aged between 60 and 79 tested positive.
But just six in ten of those aged 16 to 24 tested positive, meaning millions of younger adults remain susceptible.
Yet the data suggests the UK may be approaching herd immunity.
Experts believe around 85 per cent of the total population needs antibodies to reach this threshold.
Kara Steel, Senior Statistician for the COVID-19 Infection survey said: ‘Today’s figures show the vast majority of adults across the UK now have some level of protection against COVID-19.
‘As restrictions are eased further, this protection will hopefully help to protect many people developing severe symptoms.
‘Continuing to monitor how antibody and infection levels change in the coming months through our survey is crucial, so I’d like to thank everyone on the study for their ongoing contribution.’
Professor Steven Riley, from Imperial College London, said it was difficult to know when antibody levels would be high enough to stop Covid-19 spreading.
He added that herd immunity is likely to be achieved first in areas of the country – such as the North West – which have been badly hit by the Indian variant so have higher levels of immunity.
Professor Steven Riley, from Imperial College London, said it was difficult to know when antibody levels would be high enough to stop Covid-19 spreading
The ONS data shows that antibody levels are lowest in south west England, at 86 per cent, and highest in north west England, at 89 per cent.
Professor Riley said: ‘We like to think about unity as a binary thing – people are either protected or they’re not.
‘With this virus it’s much more difficult to say this is the threshold we need X per cent for herd immunity.
‘I think that it will happen in different places at different times, and it will be a slowing in the places we’ve had earlier, perhaps faster, Delta epidemics.’
The herd immunity threshold varies according to the ‘R rate’ of a disease – the average number of people infected by someone with the virus.
Prior to the emergence of the more infectious Indian and Kent variants, the herd immunity threshold was thought to be between 60 and 70 per cent.
But because the Indian variant is twice as infectious, with a ‘natural’ R value of up to 7, the herd immunity threshold is more like 85 per cent.
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