COVID cases in over 60s rise sharply in England

An elderly patient receiving the COVID-19 vaccination as part of a home visiting service for housebound patients from Dr Fordham of the Channel Health Alliance at their home in the community outside Dover to administer the COVID-19 Vaccination on the 27th of February 2021, Dover, Kent, United Kingdom. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In Pictures via Getty Images)
An elderly patient receives the COVID vaccination as part of a home visiting service for housebound patients. (Getty)

While the early part of the Omicron wave was driven by infections in younger people, data shows that COVID cases in people over 60 in England have now risen steeply.

According to UK government data, new infections for the under 60s began to rise in early November, but mid December saw a sudden sharp rise in older people.

The rolling case rate in over 60s was 852 on 30 December – the most recent date for which complete data is available – up from 136.4 on 30 November.

While reports have stated that Omicron is a milder variant that causes less severe illness, the older age group are more likely to suffer serious outcomes from COVID – potentially putting further strain on the NHS throughout the winter months.

However, figures also show that 85% of people over 65 have had three doses of the vaccine, reducing the likelihood of them suffering from severe illness.

COVID cases have risen steeply in the over 60s. (Yahoo News)
COVID cases have risen steeply in the over 60s. (Yahoo News)

It comes as England’s chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty urged people to get jabbed as people in every age band are “significantly protected by vaccination”.

Speaking at a press briefing in Downing Street on Tuesday, Whitty said: “Every age band, being vaccinated, whether it’s previous variants and is likely to be true for this variant, every age band people are significantly protected by vaccination.

“And it is really critical whatever age people are, that they do get vaccinated.”

Watch: Vallance: Omicron cases in older people on rise in London

Whitty added that in terms of reducing hospitalisations, “we are now confident that boosting provides very significant protection and that the one or two vaccines provide some level of protection”.

However, he acknowledged “some hospitals, some areas of the country” will come under “very substantial pressure over the next couple of weeks” with high numbers of staff isolating over infections compounding the typical winter pressures.

Also on Tuesday, Boris Johnson said there is a “good chance” he will not impose fresh restrictions to tackle the massive wave of Omicron cases, as he backed sticking with Plan B measures despite acknowledging parts of the NHS will feel “temporarily overwhelmed”.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C), Britain's Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty (L) and Britain's Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance host a virtual press conference to update the nation on the status of the Covid-19 pandemic, in the Downing Street briefing room in central London on January 4, 2022. - British hospitals have switched to a
Boris Johnson was flanked by England's chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty (L) and chief scientific sdviser Sir Patrick Vallance during a press conference on Tuesday. (Getty)

The prime minister confirmed he would advocate to his Cabinet today the need to stick with work-from-home guidance, mask-wearing and COVID health passes to “ride out” the wave of infections but warned that anyone who believes the battle against the disease is over is “profoundly wrong”.

He spoke on the day a record 218,724 lab-confirmed COVID cases were announced in England and Scotland – though the figure will have been inflated by delayed reporting over the holiday period.

Johnson accepted the weeks ahead are going to be “challenging” and said “some services will be disrupted by staff absences” as he pledged to “fortify” the NHS to withstand the pressures and protect supply chains.

UXBRIDGE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 17: Britain's Prime Minster Boris Johnson (C) looks on as a woman receives a Covid-19 booster jab, during a constituency visit to a vaccination centre at Hillingdon Hospital on December 17, 2021 in Uxbridge, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson looks on as a woman receives a COVID booster jab at Hillingdon hospital. (Getty)

Under the measures, he said 100,000 “critical workers” including those in transport, policing and food distribution will get lateral flow tests on every working day starting on Monday.

Pressed on how likely he things it is that further restrictions will be needed, Johnson said “it depends to be absolutely frank” on whether the strain first identified in South Africa behaves in a similar way to it has there and “how quickly it blows through”.

“I would say we have a good chance of getting through the Omicron wave without the need for further restrictions and without the need certainly for a lockdown,” he added.

Members of the public queue to receive a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at a coronavirus vaccination centre outside Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in central London on December 13, 2021. - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday said at least one person infected with Omicron had died, as the country began an ambitious booster programme against the variant. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Members of the public queue to receive a dose of a COVID vaccine at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in central London. (Getty)

But shadow health secretary Wes Streeting accused Johnson of “complacency” as people struggled to access COVID tests and critical incidents were being declared by hospitals.

He told reporters: “There are serious pressures on the NHS, the prime minister has got to be honest with the country about those pressures and even more importantly set out how he plans to address them.”

Watch: Boris Johnson sticks with Plan B in bid to 'ride out' Omicron without lockdown