'The BA.4/5 wave is here': COVID infections soar in England by more than 300k in a week

File photo dated 11/02/22 of people walking along Peascod Street in Windsor, Berkshire. Shopper footfall across the UK continued its gradual improvement in March as many consumers enjoyed their first full month free of Covid restrictions. Issue date: Friday April 8, 2022.
COVID infections are soaring across England, according to the ONS. (PA)

COVID infections are now soaring in England amid warnings of a new wave driven by the new Omicron subvariants.

The Office for National Statistics' (ONS) latest infection survey, a report considered the gold standard in monitoring the prevalence of COVID in the community, suggested case numbers have grown by more than 300,000 in a week.

Last week's infection survey estimated 797,500 people in England had the virus, about one in 70 people.

It compares to this week's research, which suggests 1,131,000 had COVID, about one in 50 people.

The infection survey sees researchers carry out tests on people in private households across the country, with the data used to predict the amount of people who have the virus.

Read more: Long Covid risk ‘lower from Omicron compared to Delta’

People testing positive for COVID-19 in private households in the UK. (PA)
People testing positive for COVID-19 in private households in the UK. England accounts for the majority of infections. (PA)

Read more: Is UK at start of new COVID wave driven by BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants?

It's thought the rise reflects the impact of new Omicron strains BA.4 and BA.5, which were recently classed “variants of concern”.

And it follows experts’ warnings this week that a new wave of COVID is “kicking off” in England.

Responding to the latest figures on Friday, Dr Duncan Robertson, a noted COVID modeller, stated: "The BA.4/5 wave is here."

The data apply to the week ending 11 June, with Dr Deepti Gurdasani, a member of the Independent Sage group, which scrutinises government COVID policy, saying the actual number six days later will now be "worse".

The figures also tally with gradually rising hospital admissions, including among over-85s, and Dr Mary Ramsay, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) director of clinical programmes, said on Thursday: “After a period of low case rates, we are now seeing increases in outbreaks within care homes and in hospitalisations among those aged 80 years and over.

“It is encouraging that we are not seeing an increase in intensive care unit admissions but we are monitoring data closely and assessing the possible impact of subvariants BA.4 and BA.5."

Dr Ramsay renewed calls for people to get vaccinated to prevent serious illness.

The current outbreak remains far away from the numbers seen in the spring. That wave culminated in a record 4.9 million people in the UK having the virus in the last full week of March.

In the UK, the virus is currently estimated to be most prevalent in Scotland, where 176,900 people (one in 30) were likely to have tested positive last week, up from 124,100, or one in 40.

Wales has seen infections rise to 64,800 people (one in 45), up from 40,500, or one in 75, from the previous week. Northern Ireland has seen infections jump to an estimated 42,900 people (one in 45), up from 27,700, or one in 65.