Flu and Covid-19 hospital admissions fall, though levels remain high

Flu and Covid-19 hospital admissions in England fell last week, though levels remain high, figures show.

Health experts said the numbers should be treated with caution as they are likely to have been affected by fewer hospitals reporting data over the festive period, along with reduced social contact among the public due to schools and workplaces being closed.

Flu admissions stood at 8.3 per 100,000 people in the week to January 1, down from 14.8 the previous week which was the highest level in at least a decade, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Despite the drop, the rate is still running above any point in the previous four winters.

HOSPITAL Admissions
(PA Graphics)

Admissions continue to be highest among the oldest age groups, at 61.8 per 100,000 for people aged 85 and over and 31.8 for 75- to 84-year-olds.

Covid-19 admissions also showed a decrease, down from 11.8 per 100,000 to 10.7.

Rates for coronavirus admissions were again highest among the elderly, at 130.7 for over-85s and 51.8 for those aged 75-84.

There can often be a slight reduction in recorded levels of hospital activity over the festive period, which this winter included the weekend of December 24/25 followed by bank holidays on both December 26 and 27.

The latest data might have been affected by some hospitals not returning a full set of figures, together with “reporting delays and bank holidays over Christmas and New Year”, the UKHSA said.

But there may also have been a temporary reduction in the transmission of viruses due to “reductions in social contact rates over the holiday”, with fewer people travelling and many communal buildings closed.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

NHS director of vaccinations and screening Steve Russell said that, while the health service had delivered almost 20 million flu jabs to around four in five over-65s, “unfortunately flu admissions continue to be very high and so it remains vital that anyone eligible, including pregnant women and children aged two and three, who are yet to have their flu jab, book in for one as soon as possible”.

UKHSA chief executive Dame Jenny Harries said there had been a “dramatic increase” in the number of flu admissions before Christmas, but they have started to fall in recent days.

“I urge all those eligible to come forward for their free flu vaccination, which is the best way to protect yourself from serious illness,” she said.

“Uptake of the flu vaccine is particularly low in children aged two and three, so if your child is eligible, please urgently take up the offer.

“Covid-19 also continues to circulate at high levels and anyone eligible for a booster who has yet to take it up should come forward.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Almost half of 55- to 59-year-olds have not had a fresh dose of coronavirus vaccine, along with nearly six in 10 people aged 50 to 54.

Latest estimates from the UKHSA show that 81.9% of people aged 80 and over have received the jab, along with 82.1% of 75- to 79-year-olds and 78.7% of 70- to 74-year-olds.

But levels are much lower among younger groups, at 71.6% of people aged 65 to 69, 60.8% of 60- to 64-year-olds, 51.5% of 55 to 59-year-olds and 41.8% of 50- to 54-year-olds.

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 for frontline health and care workers, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

HEALTH Admissions
(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, the number of people in hospital in England who have tested positive for coronavirus looks to have levelled off at just over 9,000.

The figure had been on an upwards path since the start of December, though in recent days this trend has come to a halt, with 9,332 patients recorded as having Covid-19 on January 4, down 1% on the previous week.

Hospital numbers topped 17,000 during the wave of infections in winter 2021/22.