The majority of Covid patients in English hospitals are not being treated primarily for the virus, latest figures show.
For the first time since the NHS began recording the data, the number of patients being treated “for” Covid has fallen below those “with” Covid.
While 13,023 patients are currently included in the Covid in-hospital figures, just 6,265 (48 per cent) are being treated primarily for the virus.
It is the lowest proportion since these figures were first published in June 2021, and is up from 26 per cent at the start of December.
The disparity is even greater in London, where just 36 per cent of patients are true Covid cases. Primary cases in the Midlands and the South West are also now lower than 50 per cent.
Experts have repeatedly warned that omicron is becoming so prevalent in the community that many people admitted to hospital for other reasons will also test positive for coronavirus, and end up in the Covid figures.
The number of people in hospital in England with primary Covid is now at its lowest since December, having fallen 27 per cent since it peaked at 8,582 patients on January 10.
The percentage of hospital beds being taken up by Covid patients has also fallen to 13.2 per cent compared with 14.8 per cent last week, and 29.8 per cent in last year’s January wave.
A total of 501 patients in all hospitals in England were in mechanical ventilation beds on January 25, compared with 773 at the start of December - and well below the 3,736 recorded at the peak of the second wave on January 24 2021.
Staff absences from Covid have also fallen 15 per cent to 30,375 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England.
Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, the body that represents health trusts in England, said: "We know that success in reducing delayed discharges is dependent on having enough staff to facilitate discharges and support patients once they are ready to return home or to other community settings.
“That's why we are pleased to see that the number of staff absences due to Covid-19 is now decreasing after the Omicron peak, although it's important to recognise that the total number of staff absences remains high.”