Covid infections fall in England and Wales in sign autumn wave may have peaked

A Covid 19 testing centre in Leytonstone, east London (Stock image)  (PA Wire)
A Covid 19 testing centre in Leytonstone, east London (Stock image) (PA Wire)

Covid infections have decreased in England and Wales in a sign that the autumn wave of infections may have peaked, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

An estimated 1.59 million people tested positive for the virus in the week ending October 24, down from 1.74 million the week before.

Infections continued to increase in Northern Ireland while the trend is uncertain in Scotland, the ONS said.

The total number of people in private households in the UK testing positive for coronavirus stood at almost 1.87 million in the week to October 24, down 8 per cent on 2.05 million in the previous week.

Around 2.6 per cent of people in London tested positive during the time period, the lowest figure of any region in the UK. The East Midlands had the highest proportion of positive tests, at 3.4 per cent.

Infections remain high in those aged 70 and over, the ONS said, while cases have declined in other adult age groups. There has also been a slight uptick in the number of infections among primary school children, with 1.8 per cent testing positive in the seven days up to October 24.

Fears of a “twindemic” of flu and Covid cases have eased since infection rates have dropped in the past month.

But Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, told the Standard that there was still a prospect of another wave of cases in the New Year even though infections have declined in the past fortnight.

“This current wave appears to have peaked at a slightly lower level, but the real threat will probably come later this year between December and February. Infection rates might be dropping but we are not over this yet.”

Modelling conducted by researchers at University College London found that there could be a “subsequent peak” of infections in late January.

Professor Karl Friston, a neuroscientist who led the modelling, told Sky News: “You can see a pattern over the past two years of a peak in late October or early November - and then a large one after Christmas.”

Two subvariants of Omicron – BQ.1 and XBB – are believed to have driven the recent increase in cases. Both were recently designated by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to enable further analysis but have not been labelled Variants of Concern.