The number of hospital patients in England testing positive for Covid-19 has fallen by more than a quarter in just two weeks, in the latest sign the current wave of infections is receding.
A total of 10,417 people with coronavirus were in hospital as of 8am on August 1, according to NHS England.
This is down 26% from a peak of 14,044 on July 18.
Patient numbers had risen steadily during much of June and the first half of July, driven by the spread of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants.
But levels are now on a downward trend, suggesting the virus is becoming less prevalent across the country.
The fall could help ease pressure on hospital staff, who are already attempting to clear a record backlog of treatment.
Most patients who test positive for Covid-19 are not being treated primarily for the virus, but still need to be kept isolated from others to minimise the spread of infections.
Figures published last week by the Office for National Statistics showed an estimated 2.6 million people in England were likely to have had Covid-19 in the week to July 20, down from 3.1 million in the previous week.
This was the first week-on-week fall in infections since late May.
There have been three Omicron waves of coronavirus so far this year, with the spring wave – driven by BA.2 – sending infections to record levels.
High levels of coronavirus antibodies among the population – either from vaccination or previous infection – have meant the number of people seriously ill or dying from the virus remains low, however.
Hospital numbers throughout all of this year’s waves have remained well below the figures seen during the pre-vaccine waves earlier in the pandemic.