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Daily Covid hospitalisations fell below 1,000 for the first time since mid-December when the Omicron wave first began to take hold, official data showed today.
There 798 new admissions reported in Britain on Saturday, the latest date Government dashboard data is available for. Hospitalisations were down by a third on the previous week’s figure.
It was the lowest daily count since December 11, when 793 people were admitted. Hospitalisations have remained above 1,000 per day since December 19 but never reached the more than 3,000 suggested by SAGE models.
Today’s figures also show just 16,611 new positive tests were recorded over the last 24 hours, down 3.6 per cent on the 17,224 seen last Wednesday.
Experts told MailOnline that the UK’s daily infection numbers are showing a ‘diminishingly small proportion’ of actual cases now that free testing has been scrapped for the vast majority of Britons.
But in another sign Britain’s Covid wave is fizzling out naturally despite the end of all restrictions, deaths fell 25.3 per cent to 227 today.
And health officials ditched daily updates to vaccine figures today, instead opting for weekly updates. The move came after Ireland’s Department of Health confirmed it will ‘no longer’ publish daily Covid figures last Friday.
Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist based at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline the UK will follow suit ‘at some point’ and it is ‘quite right’ that Covid data is only shared through weekly updates — as is done for influenza — as the crisis becomes an epidemic.
The figures come as ministers threatened to ‘name and shame’ hospitals and fine universities which are stubbornly adhering to old Covid visiting and mixing restrictions.
Covid cases surge in South Africa again — but experts say there’s no reason to panic
Experts have urged people not to panic as South Africa once again becomes a focal point of the pandemic amid a fresh Covid surge of new subvariants.
The world watched in horror last November as the super-infectious Omicron strain (BA.1) spread through South Africa at unprecedented speed — which turned out to be mild.
But now the country finds itself at the cusp of a fresh explosion in infections, this time due to sub-strains that appear even more transmissible and resistant to antibodies.
Covid cases have nearly quadrupled in a month nationally and hospital admissions are ticking up in Gauteng province, the former epicentre of the original Omicron wave.
Researchers on the ground in South Africa say the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants can evade immunity and cause symptoms in people who were infected with their parent strain just months ago.
What is still unclear is whether the new wave will create milder or more severe illness — but experts tell MailOnline the former is more likely, for the UK at least.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, said Britain’s second Omicron wave, triggered by the BA.2 subvariant, will have given Britons an extra layer of immunity against severe illness.
Today’s death figures were lower than expected due to data issues, the UK Health Security Agency said.
Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist based at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline: ‘I think at some point the UK will be doing that [ditching daily numbers] as well and that’s quite proportionate.
‘As the disease becomes an epidemic and gets to equilibrium it’s quite right that we start to treat Covid as we treat influenza, which we do weekly figures for.
‘Daily numbers are showing a diminishingly small proportion of cases that have been occurring.
‘Data from the ONS suggests daily numbers show only one in 13 cases, compared to other moments in pandemic when one in two or one in three cases have been spotted.’
A spokesperson for the UK Health Security Agency said: ‘As we move forward in the pandemic, changes to reporting across the four nations means Covid metrics will be updated on different dates and schedules.
‘Variations in reporting schedules should be considered when looking at reported Covid figures and day-to-day comparisons may therefore be misleading.
‘There are currently no plans to cease reporting Covid data on the UKHSA dashboard.’
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and universities minister Michelle Donelan are said to have told NHS trusts and higher education providers to get back to normal after the relaxation of Covid restrictions or face Government action.
Mr Javid is threatening to out any hospitals which are refusing to relax measures that were watered down last month, The Telegraph reports.
Isolation for NHS patients was cut from 10 days to seven with two negative tests in March and the need to isolate asymptomatic patients who are contacts of someone with the virus was also lifted.
The changes are seen as crucial in freeing up more NHS capacity to tackle the pandemic-fuelled backlogs for treatment, with a record 6.2million people in England waiting for routine operations.
Some hospitals are still enforcing visitor limits and social distancing in waiting rooms, which were also loosened a month ago.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust is one trust still suspending almost all visitors to its wards except for in special circumstances, like end of life care — which MPs have slammed as ‘illegal’ and a breach of human rights.
Meanwhile, universities are also under pressure to return to normality, with Ms Donelan telling The Telegraph she has been ‘personally’ phoning university bosses and telling them to get back to normal.
She has promised to ‘put boots on the ground’ to investigate institutions where students have complained about a lack of face-to-face teaching, and issue fines to those failing to comply with the new Covid strategy.
It comes amid a Government-wide crackdown on institutions still clinging onto old pandemic guidance. Jacob Rees Mogg, the minister for Brexit opportunities, this week hit out at civil servants still working from home.
Source: Daily Mail