The number of people in hospital in England with Covid-19 has started to fall, suggesting the latest wave of admissions may have peaked.
Health experts said the figures were “a testament” to the success of the autumn booster vaccination campaign, but warned infection levels may rise again during the winter.
A total of 9,131 patients testing positive for coronavirus were in hospital as of 8am on October 26, according to NHS England.
This is down 12% from 10,387 a week earlier.
Patient numbers had been rising since mid-September, driven by a fresh wave of infections.
But this trend looks to have come to a halt in mid-October, since when the figures have started to drop.
The total number of Covid-19 patients has now for fallen nine days in a row.
Covid-19 hospital data is published every Thursday, so it may take another week or two before there is evidence of a steady downwards trend.
Patient numbers topped 14,000 in mid-July of this year at the peak of the wave of infections caused by the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the virus.
This was well below the levels seen during the early waves of the pandemic.
Covid-19 admission rates are also starting to fall, with a rate of 10.1 admissions per 100,000 people in the week to October 23, down from 11.6.
This is the second weekly drop in a row.
Around two-thirds of patients in hospital who test positive for Covid-19 are being treated primarily for something else.
But they need to be isolated from patients who do not have the virus, putting extra demands on staff already struggling to clear a record backlog of treatment.
Dr Mary Ramsay, director of public health programmes at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said the fall in hospital numbers is “a testament to the continued success of the autumn booster programme”, but warned against complacency as “cases could rise quickly again throughout the winter”.
She added: “Please come forward for your booster as soon as it is offered to you. Vaccines remain our best protection against disease but it’s also important that we all remain cautious as we head into winter.
“If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, it is important to avoid contact with elderly people or those who have underlying health conditions.
“This will not only help to keep you and your loved ones safe, but will go a long way to relieving the pressure on the NHS through the winter.”
More than two-thirds (67.6%) of people aged 80 and over in England are now likely to have received an autumn booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine, along with a similar proportion (68.6%) of 75 to 79-year-olds.
The booster is intended to increase protection against serious illness during new waves of the virus.
The UKHSA data, which covers vaccinations up to October 23, also shows that 64.6% of 70 to 74-year-olds are estimated to have had the booster, as well as 56.3% of people aged 65 to 69.
All people aged 50 and over in England are now able to book an appointment for the booster, providing they had their last jab at least three months ago.
Doses are also available to frontline health and care workers, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
Estimates published last week by the Office for National Statistics showed that infections were still rising in England earlier this month, though the rate of increase was slowing.
The number of people in private households testing positive for coronavirus in the week to October 10 was 1.7 million, or around one in 30 – up from 1.5 million, or one in 35, in the previous week.
Infections in England peaked at 3.1 million during the summer BA.4/BA.5 wave.