Covid-19 infections fall in all UK nations for first time since summer

Covid-19 infections have fallen in all four UK nations for the first time in nearly three months, in fresh evidence the latest wave of the virus has peaked.

Hospital numbers are also continuing to drop across the country, with health experts praising the autumn booster campaign for helping to prevent high levels of serious illness.

The total number of people in private households in the UK testing positive for coronavirus stood at 1.5 million in the week to November 1, down 18% from 1.9 million in the previous week, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

The current wave looks to have peaked at just over two million infections in mid-October – some way below the peak of nearly four million reached in early July, during the wave caused by the Omicron BA.4/BA.5 variants of the virus.

A mix of Omicron variants have been driving the latest wave, all of which are being monitored for their potential to spread rapidly, though none have yet been designated variants of concern.

Sarah Crofts, ONS deputy director for the Covid-19 infection survey, said the new figures showed the picture across the UK was “generally a positive one”, with infections falling in every nation for the first time 10 weeks.

“Infections have decreased in all age groups in England, including the over-70s, which are still among the highest infected,” she added.

“There was also a decrease in infections among these older ages in Wales, though the trend is uncertain in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“We will continue to monitor the data as we move through winter.”

In England, the number of people testing positive for coronavirus in the week to November 1 was 1.3 million, or around one in 40 people, down from 1.6 million the previous week, or one in 35.

It is the second week in a row that England has seen a drop.

Wales has seen its third consecutive weekly fall, with infections now standing at 72,400, the equivalent of one in 40 people, down from 77,500, which was also one in 40.

In Northern Ireland, the latest estimate for infections is 39,900, or one in 45 people, down sharply from 61,200, or one in 30.

Scotland has seen infections fall to 107,300, or one in 50 people, down from 141,400, or one in 35.

Scotland now has the lowest prevalence of the virus of all four UK nations.

The proportion of over-70s in England likely to have had Covid-19 in the week to November 1 was 3.0%, or around one in 35 people, the ONS said.

The next highest rates were among 50 to 69-year-olds, at 2.9%, which is also the equivalent of one in 35.

Infection levels have fallen in all regions except Eastern England and the North-East.

The ONS infection survey is the most reliable measure of the prevalence of coronavirus and is based on a sample of swab tests from households across the UK.

But there is a lag in the reporting of the data, due to the time it takes for the survey to be compiled.

More recent figures show the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has been falling steadily for several weeks.

HEALTH Coronavirus Hospitals
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A total of 5,647 patients testing positive for coronavirus were in hospital in England on November 9, down 23% from the previous week and down 47% from the recent peak of 10,688 in mid-October.

Patient numbers in England have now fallen 23 days in a row.

Earlier this year patient levels topped 14,000 at the peak of the BA.4/BA.5 wave, but this was well below the figures seen during the early waves of the pandemic.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also reporting a fall in Covid-19 patients after a small October peak.

Dr Mary Ramsay, director of public health programmes at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: “It is hugely encouraging that Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations are still in decline across the UK.

“This goes to show how effective the vaccine programme continues to be and we thank everyone who has come forward for their latest vaccination so far.

“However, it is still vital that anyone who has not had their booster this autumn does so as soon as possible. Vaccination is still the best way to protect yourself, your family and the NHS, particularly as we head into winter.”

HEALTH Coronavirus Hospitals
(PA Graphics)

Around three-quarters (75.4%) of people aged 80 and over in England are now likely to have received an autumn booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine, along with a similar proportion (76.2%) of 75 to 79-year-olds.

The booster is intended to increase protection against serious illness during new waves of the virus.

The UKHSA data, which covers vaccinations up to November 6, also shows that 72.9% of 70 to 74-year-olds are estimated to have had the booster, as well as 65.2% of people aged 65 to 69.

All people aged 50 and over are able to book an appointment for the booster, providing they had their last jab at least three months ago.

Doses are also available to frontline health and care workers, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.