Covid cases in care homes jump 50 per cent in a week as elderly are urged to get boosted

Older people are being urged to get vaccinated
Older people are being urged to get vaccinated

Covid outbreaks in care homes have jumped 50 per cent in a week as older people were urged to get boosted.

Latest figures from the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) show there were 312 outbreaks with at least one linked case testing positive for Covid, compared to 211 the previous week.

Cases are currently rising fastest in the over-80s, with experts blaming waning immunity for the latest increases, according to UKHSA weekly surveillance data.

Around 16 per cent of older people eligible for a spring booster are yet to come forward and 20 per cent of over-75s have not been vaccinated in the past six months.

The hospital admission rate has also risen from 14.59 per 100,000 population, an increase from 11.12 in the previous week, figures show, although the number of people needing intensive care is still very low.

Dr Mary Ramsay, director of clinical programmes at the UKHSA, said: “We continue to see Covid-19 case rates and hospitalisations rise in all age groups, with the largest increases in hospitalisations and ICU admissions in those aged 75 and older.

“There is likely to be a substantial amount of waning immunity in older people who have not taken up the booster on schedule, so we can expect these rises to continue over the coming weeks and throughout July.

“Vaccination remains the best defence against severe disease and we urge anyone who’s eligible for the spring booster to take it up.”

‘Current wave beginning to peak’

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also show that community infection rates are continuing to rise, with 1 in 25 people now infected in the week ending June 29, compared with 1 in 30 the previous week.

The rises are being driven largely by the omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

There was also a slight rise in outbreaks in educational settings, rising from seven incidents to nine. Outbreaks in hospitals rose from 27 to 38.

It is estimated that 2.7 million people would have tested positive in private households at the end of June, the highest it has been since late April but is still well below the record high of 4.9 million, which was reached at the end of March.

Latest figures from the Government’s coronavirus dashboard suggest the rises may be slowing.

Prof Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology, at the University of Edinburgh, said: “There are hints that the current wave may be beginning to peak: the increase in cases appears to be slowing in the most affected regions, notably Scotland. Hopefully, next week’s data will confirm this trend.

“Within the healthcare system, highest levels of infection occur in the over 70s.  This group remains most vulnerable to severe disease.

“Vaccines continue to provide significant protection but not all elderly people have had their fourth or even their third dose, which increases the risk of severe illness, hospitalisation and death.”

Care home providers said they had noticed an increase in outbreaks, and were monitoring the situation, but said most symptoms remained mild. There are currently no plans to reintroduce new restrictions although some hospitals have reintroduced mask mandates.

A new vaccination programme is not expected until the autumn when over 65s will be boosted again alongside frontline health and social care workers.

Dr David Spiegelhalter, Cambridge University statistician, warned that hospital admissions were “rising steeply, and they are nearly at the level of previous peaks this year”.

But he added: “I think there are some indications that they may be topping off.”