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More than 2million people in England had Covid just before Christmas, official surveillance data suggested today amid warning signs that infections are now rising quickest in over-65s.
The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) weekly report estimated one in 25 people had the virus on December 23, marking a 70 per cent surge in a week and the highest toll seen throughout the entire pandemic.
Cases were highest in epicentre London, where one in 15 people were estimated to be infected, followed by the South East and East of England, at one in 30. Cases were lowest in the North East at one in 45.
The ONS analysis is based on random swab testing of tens of thousands of people across Britain and the results are inspected closely by ministers.
Separate data showed infections are now rising fastest among over-65s — the age group most vulnerable to the virus — where they are now doubling every week.
Experts said this would ‘directly feed’ into hospitalisations and that a spike was ‘certain’. But they added that the booster drive, which has reached 90 per cent of older adults, will provide an extra layer of protection.
The number of Covid patients in England’s hospitals yesterday broke through 11,000 for the first time since early February. And in London they have surged above 400 a day.
But a senior NHS boss today said there was no need for any new lockdown measures because Covid cases have remained stable. The chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson added that the absence of a surge in hospitalisations of severly ill older people justified the Government’s current position.
Office for National Statistics random swabbing suggested 2million people in England had the virus last week — equivalent to one in 25. This was a 70 per cent surge in seven days, and the highest number on record
The Office for National Statistics carries out weekly surveillance of Covid infections across the country to estimate the prevalence of the virus.
Their study is seen as the gold-standard for tracking the outbreak by ministers because it can pick up infections among groups that are less likely to be tested for fear of having to self-isolate.
Across the four nations, cases were estimated to be rising fastest in Scotland, where they surged 70 per cent in a week from 76,200 to 135,400 people estimated to be infected on any given day last week.
This was followed by England and then Wales, where infections rose 40 per cent in a week to 76,500. In Northern Ireland they rose 26 per cent to 47,500 cases.
Have you REALLY hit your booster jab target, Boris?
Millions of eligible people in England have not had their Covid booster dose, official figures show – despite the Prime Minister insisting No10’s third dose target has been met.
Boris Johnson today bragged that the Government had achieved its goal of offering a top-up vaccine to all adults by the New Year.
But vaccination figures show 9.5million people who were double-jabbed by the end of September – and therefore now eligible for their third dose – have yet to get their booster.
Mr Johnson told the nation in a televised broadcast earlier this month that all eligible adults in England ‘will have the chance to get their booster before the New Year’.
No10 and the NHS subsequently clarified their goal was to invite eligible Britons for a vaccine before the end of the year, rather than deliver those doses.
ONS estimates of cases by age groups showed they were rising in all age groups, and ticking up fastest among 25 to 35-year-olds.
Statisticians said this matched testing data showing the virus was spreading fastest in this age group.
Separate figures from the Department of Health also showed the virus has now spilled over into over-65s, who are most vulnerable to the virus.
It publishes the infection rate for age groups broken down by five-year bands.
Among over-65s infections were rising fastest in 75 to 79-year-olds, surging 143 per cent in a week from 137.9 to 334.9 cases per 100,000 people.
They were followed by 80 to 84-year-olds, where cases surged 133 per cent from 107.8 to 250.8 cases, and 70 to 74-year-olds, where cases surged 131 per cent from 236.6 to 486. For 85 to 89-year-olds, cases are up 128 per cent in seven days, from 99.8 to 253, for the over-90s they are up 106 per cent, from 143.4 to 295.4, and among 65 to 69-year-olds they are up 103 per cent, from 236.6 to 486.
But the data showed cases were rising in every age group except 10 to 14-year-olds.
Scientists have said high levels of immunity in this age group from previous infections should keep the virus at bay, although a lack of testing because of the school holidays could also be behind the figures.
The surging infections in older age groups raise questions over whether the NHS could soon face an influx of admissions.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia, said it was ‘certain’ that there would be a spike in hospitalisations.
He told MailOnline: ‘The implications are clear that if infection rates continue to increase so quickly in the older age groups this will directly feed into higher hospitalisation rates from this age group.
‘But around 90 per cent of the over-65s have already had their booster dose so how high this increase will go is quite uncertain.’
He added: ‘I think it is absolutely certain that hospital admissions will spike. But the big questions are when will admissions peak and how high will they have got when they do.’
Latest data for hospitals in England shows there were more than 2,000 admissions on December 28, the latest available. This is the most since early February, and double the figure from a week ago.
Ministers have turbo-charged their booster drive and prioritised older groups in a bid to keep Omicron at bay, with scientists saying the jabs will provide an extra layer of protection.
And Boris Johnson claimed earlier this week that 90 per cent of Covid patients in intensive care had not received their booster jabs.
However, no figures have been published to back up this claim. Ministers today faced calls from Tory MPs to be transparent with their data.
Statistics from King’s College London scientists published yesterday estimated almost 200,000 people were now catching Covid every day in the UK, and that the country will break through the milestone in the next few days
Covid cases are highest among 18 to 35-year-olds (orange line), they said, but are rising in all age groups. There is also an uptick among 55 to 75-year-olds (red line) and over-75s (purple line) who are more at risk from the virus
Across England’s regions the number of infections is still highest in London. But as Omicron spreads across the country cases are now rising in all other regions
The Government publishes daily figures on Omicron hospitalisations, but this is only broken down by whether people admitted have or have not received a Covid jab.
Officia figures show some 33million Britons have now got their booster jabs, or 58 per cent of over-12s. Among over-65s 9.5million out of 10.7million have got their booster jabs — about 90 per cent.
Some 47million are double-jabbed, or 82 per cent of people over the age of 12.
Saying there was no need for new restrictions at present, Mr Hopson told The Times: ‘Although the numbers are going up and going up increasingly rapidly, the absence of large numbers of seriously ill older people is providing significant reassurance.
‘But they are aware that this may change after the Christmas period.
‘Trust CEOs know that the government has a high threshold to cross before it will introduce extra restrictions and can see why, in the absence of that surge of severely ill older people, that threshold hasn’t been crossed yet.’
It comes after one of the country’s largest surveillance study’s warned yesterday that almost 200,000 people in Britain are catching Covid every day.
King’s College London experts – who monitor the outbreak using a symptom-tracking app – estimate infections jumped 33 per cent in a week to around 192,000 per day.
But the team hailed promising signs that the exponential growth phase of the Omicron outbreak has ‘stopped’. Dr Claire Steves, one of the experts behind the app, said the rise is now ‘more steady’ and cautioned that up to three-quarters of people with cold-like symptoms probably have Covid.
Dr Steves said her team’s data shows that cases are still on the rise in 55-75 year olds, adding: ‘Unfortunately, it’s likely that this will translate into more hospital admissions in the New Year.’
It fits with data suggesting the wave may have already peaked in London, which was the first region to be battered by the ultra-infectious variant which evidence shows is causing milder disease than previous strains.
However, hospitals in the capital have already breached the key 400-a-day admissions threshold that could trigger the Government to make a nationwide intervention.
Source: Daily Mail