Covid-19 infection levels in UK showing ‘early impact of Omicron’

·4-min read
A Chelsea fan shows a Covid pass to a steward ahead of the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge in London (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)
A Chelsea fan shows a Covid pass to a steward ahead of the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge in London (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

Covid-19 infection levels remain broadly unchanged across the UK, though the trend is uncertain in many areas and there is evidence of the “early impact” of the Omicron variant, new analysis suggests.

About one in 60 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to December 11, the same proportion as the previous week, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

One in 60 is the equivalent of about 936,000 people.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

The number of people who were estimated to have coronavirus at the peak of the second wave in early January was one in 50.

This led to a surge in hospital admissions and deaths, along with a nationwide lockdown.

But the current wave of infections has so far not resulted in similar numbers of people becoming seriously ill, thanks to the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.

The ONS figures run only up to last weekend, meaning the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in recent days is not reflected in the estimates.

Sarah Crofts, head of analytical outputs for the ONS Covid-19 infection survey, said that although the Delta variant “remains the most common” across the UK, “we are now seeing the early impact of the Omicron variant in our data”.

She added: “Cases compatible with this variant have increased in England and Scotland, and there were early signs of an increase in Wales

The trend in infections is “uncertain” in England, Wales and Scotland.

In Wales, about one in 55 people is estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week to December 11, down from one in 50 the previous week and below the recent record high of one in 40.

In Northern Ireland, the latest estimate is one in 50 people, down from one in 45 and slightly below the record high of one in 40 in mid-August.

For Scotland, the latest estimate is one in 80, unchanged on the previous week and below September’s peak of one in 45.

All figures are for people in private households and do not include hospitals, care homes and other settings.

The number of Covid-19 infections in the UK, which is estimated every week by the ONS, is not the same as the number of new cases of coronavirus which are reported every day by the Government.

The number of infections provides a snapshot of the prevalence of Covid-19 within the entire community population of the UK, and estimates the percentage of people who are likely to test positive for the virus at any one point – regardless of when they caught the virus, how long they have had it, and whether they have symptoms.

It is based on a sample of swab tests collected from households across the UK.

By contrast, the number of cases of Covid-19 reported each day by the Government includes only those people who have newly tested positive for the virus, and is therefore affected by how many people are coming forward for tests, or who are taking a test because they know they have coronavirus symptoms.

When estimating the level of Covid-19 infections among different age groups in England, the ONS said rates have increased in the latest week for those between the age of two and school year six, and among 35 to 49-year-olds.

Rates decreased for children from school year seven to year 11, and people aged 50 to 69.

The trend for all other age groups was uncertain.

Across the regions of England, the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 is estimated to have increased in eastern England and London

The proportion decreased in north-east England along with Yorkshire and the Humber, and in all other regions the trend was uncertain.

In London, south-east England and south-west England, about one in 50 people was likely to test positive in the week to December 11.

This was the highest proportion for any region.

North-east England, together with Yorkshire and the Humber, had the lowest proportion, at about one in 80.

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