Why Are Covid Infections Rising In All Four UK Nations Again?

·4-min read
(Photo: d3sign via Getty Images)
(Photo: d3sign via Getty Images)

(Photo: d3sign via Getty Images)

Covid infections have increased across the UK, as have hospitalisations according to new figures.

It’s thought that most of these infections stem from the Omicron variants, BA.4 and BA.5, which are likely to be the most dominant strains in the UK at the moment.

How much have rates increased by?

The Office for National Statistics estimates that 1.4 million people in private households had Covid last week, which is a 43% increase from the week before.

To break the data down in a different way, that means 1.1 million people tested positive for Covid just in England last week. This equates to one in 50 – the week before it was one in 70.

Infections in Wales have also risen from one in 75 to one in 45 in just a week and it’s even more prevalent in Scotland, where one in 30 tested positive. That’s a sharp increase from the week before, when it was one in 40.

In Northern Ireland, the rate was previously one in 65 but has now shot up to one in 45, according to estimates.

This feels like a step back, considering infection levels are now comparable to those recorded at the start of May.

However, it’s important to remember that rates are still far from the 4.9million infections seen at the end of March, when Omicron’s BA.2 swept through the country, and a long way off the much higher rates seen over Christmas 2021.

The number of people testing positive for Covid in private households has increased over the last week (Photo: PA Images)
The number of people testing positive for Covid in private households has increased over the last week (Photo: PA Images)

The number of people testing positive for Covid in private households has increased over the last week (Photo: PA Images)

Which demographic is most impacted?

According to the ONS, infection rates have soared most among 50 to 69-year-olds, as one in 35 were likely to have had the virus last week across the whole of the UK.

But infection rates did also increase across all age groups.

What’s happening in hospitals?

ONS data also shows the number of patients in hospital with Covid has climbed recently, particularly in England, where there was a 23% increase in positive tests, and Scotland, where there was a 17% increase.

This works out to 5,008 patients in England with Covid as of Thursday and 748 in Scotland as of Sunday.

Increases are smaller but still noticeable in Wales and Northern Ireland, but – much like the infection rates – are still lower than during the most worrying phases of the pandemic.

There is no evidence yet that this has led to more admissions to intensive care though and the number of registered deaths linked to Covid is still low.

So why is this happening now?

Mathematical biologist at the University of Bath, Kit Yates, explained on Twitter why he thought rates were increasing.

He noted that prevalence has been increasing across the whole country for the last two weeks, adding: “This isn’t a huge surprise to many of us who’ve been following the rise of the BA4/BA5 variants.”

BA.4 and BA.5 are two newer Omicron strains which were recently classified as “variants of concern” by the World Health Organisation as they reportedly had a “growth advantage” over the previous dominant variant.

But, Yates added: “It’s not clear yet how big, how sustained, or how severe this wave will be.”

He warned that the NHS is now struggling more than ever, and called on the general public to reduce our own risk of infection as well as asking the government to push its vaccine programme once again.

Director of the clinical operational research unit at UCL, Professor Christina Pagel, also shared her own take on Twitter.

She said that, while the vaccine offers similar protection to these new variants as it did to the primary Omicron strain, “almost everyone in the UK is now several months out from their booster”.

She also called for long-term solutions to battle Covid, if “we are going to have waves every few months” as seems to be the case.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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