One in three people in England are estimated to have coronavirus antibodies either from past infection or vaccination, according to the latest official figures.
The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) latest infection survey showed that almost 35 per cent of the English population tested positive for antibodies on a blood test in the 28 days up to 3 March.
The figure was the same across Wales and Ireland, while one in four were thought to have antibodies in Scotland.
It marks a dramatic increase from about one in 10 at the start of December, suggesting the UK’s rapid vaccine rollout is beginning to take effect among the population. At the last count in early March, one in four people in England were thought to have Covid antibodies.
The rate of people testing positive for antibodies was higher among older people, who have been prioritised in the nation’s largest ever vaccination programme. Most over-70s tested positive for antibodies, according to the ONS.
“The positive impact of the vaccine rollout is clearly seen in our data,” said Sarah Crofts, senior statistician for the Covid-19 Infection survey.
London currently has the second-highest level of antibodies of any region in England, with around 36 per cent of people in the capital thought to have some level of protection against Covid.
The North West of England currently leads the country, with an estimated 39 per cent of people displaying antibodies.
It suggests the vaccination programme has helped boost immunity among Londoners, with the proportion of people testing positive for antibodies noting a sharp increase in recent weeks despite coronavirus cases falling.
Coronavirus cases in London have plummeted from a daily peak of 19,872 on 29 December to just 389 yesterday. During the peak of the third wave of coronavirus, the capital made up around a third of all infections in the UK.
The figures will come as a major boost for the Prime Minister’s roadmap for leaving lockdown, with pubs, restaurants, bars and non-essential shops due to reopen in less than a month’s time.
Almost 24.5m people in the UK have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine so far, including all top four priority groups.
The UK has recovered from a slight dip in vaccinations over recent weeks, with the NHS administering more than 500,000 doses on a single day on Saturday.
The government has set a fresh target to offer a first injection to all over-50s by 15 April and every adult in Britain by 31 July at the latest.
However, recent estimates have suggested the government is on track to vaccinate every adult in the country by 10 June, as the inoculation programme continues to pick up pace.