COVID-19 infections fall for second week in a row, ONS says

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The number of people in the UK infected with COVID-19 has fallen for the second week in a row, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), although levels remain high.

The ONS estimated that a total of 2.6 million people in private households had coronavirus in the week ending 26 July, based on self-reports from a representative sample.

This was down 19% from 3.2 million in the previous week.

In general, COVID-19 infections are on a downwards trend in most parts of the United Kingdom, although the path forward in Northern Ireland is uncertain, the ONS added.

The peak of the most recent wave fell well below the UK's record high of 4.9 million reported at the end of March.

The ONS reported there were 745 deaths involving COVID in England and Wales in the week ending 22 July.

Although the recent spike in cases has been less severe than those seen previously, the relentless pressure is taking its toll on emergency departments.

Every patient in hospital with the virus means another bed is taken up, meaning longer waits for other patients.

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Dr Mohammed Munavvar told Sky News that his hospital's work to tackle NHS waiting lists had been making a dent, but now that has been disrupted.

He said: "Other patients cannot be admitted and treated, and patients have been waiting for a long time already for their procedures and their treatment is once again getting delayed.

"That is putting a lot of pressure on the system and on the restorative work, which had started very well."

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