Over a million people in the UK have Covid-19 for the first time in weeks, leaving the NHS under immense pressure as winter approaches. Coronavirus cases rose in England for the first time since mid-October, according to the new stats from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The total number of cases rose by six percent in the week to November 21, from 972,000 for the previous seven-day period.
A new Covid-19 variant has driven the surge, said NHS bosses who warned of the increasing “pressure” on hospitals.
Professor Stephen Powis, medical director at NHS England, said: “There is a new variant circulating – BQ1 – which is becoming the dominant variant and it seems likely that is going to drive further increases. In some countries in Europe that have it you can already see growth in hospital admissions. No doubt those pressures will increase.”
The rising case numbers come a week after cases dropped below a million for the first time since mid-September. The peak of the most recent wave of the virus reached just over two million people in October.
This figure still represents substantially less than spikes seen earlier in the year, however, such as in July, when they hit four million, and March, when they reached five million.
The BQ1 Omicron offshoot is now the dominant form of the illness, making up 50.4 percent of infections – compared to 39 percent last week. The situation remains more manageable than last year following the successful vaccine rollout and herd immunity.
In the same period last year, daily cases had reached over 53,000, and over 140 deaths. But the latest ONS figures suggest that now, there are roughly 3,000 cases a day, and 4,000 Brits in hospital as a result of it.
Hospital admission rates are also showing signs of a rise, with 4.7 admissions per 100,000 people in the week to November 27, a slight increase from 4.5 per 100,000 the previous week.
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Rates are highest among those aged 85 and over, at 50.2 per 100,000.
Sarah Crofts, Deputy Director for Covid-19 Infection Survey Analysis today commented that the data would be monitored carefully in the run up to Christmas, adding: “After a recent period of decline, we are once again seeing infections begin to rise in England. Though Wales has seen continued decreases in positive cases, the trend is uncertain for the rest of the UK.”
Wales has recorded six consecutive weekly falls, with 39,600 people likely to have Covid-19 in the latest survey – the equivalent of one in 75 people, down from 45,400, or one in 65.
For Scotland, infections have risen to 91,100, up from 83,700 – although the ONS described the trend as “uncertain”.
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The same was said for Northern Ireland, which has seen its cases fall to 28,900, compared with 34,100 in the previous week. Those aged 35 – 49 were the most likely to be infected in England for the week up to November 21, with one in 50 contracting the virus.
According to figures published by the UK Health Security Agency, around one in five people aged 75 and over have yet to have their booster dose of the vaccine.
An estimated 80.8 percent of people aged 80 and over have received a booster, along with 81.1 percent of 75 to 79-year-olds and 78.3 percent of 70 to 74-year-olds.