UK Covid deaths plunge after all restrictions abandoned – but infections are creeping back up

Week-on-week cases rise by more than 10,000

Liam James
Thursday 03 March 2022 20:10 GMT
Matt Hancock admits 'mistakes were made' by UK during Covid pandemic

Coronavirus deaths in the UK have fallen since restrictions were lifted, but cases have started to creep back up.

Daily cases on Wednesday saw a week-on-week rise for the first time in a month.

The government lifted the legal requirement to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 last Thursday, bringing an end to pandemic restrictions.

The majority of measures, known collectively as Plan B, ended around one month earlier.

People quickly began moving back towards pre-pandemic behaviour from this time as working from home guidance was lifted along with national face covering rules.

Despite fears that the government had moved too early, the number of deaths from the virus declined steadily from mid-January.

New Covid cases dropped sharply from around the same time, likely amplified by a drop in testing.

But on Wednesday cases crept up to 44,017, up from 31,604 last Wednesday and the first week-on-week rise since 1 February.

The sharpest rise was in Scotland, where cases were up 30 per cent. They were up 8 per cent in England and 5 per cent in Northern Ireland. Wales saw a 1 per cent decline.

Scotland saw biggest rise in cases (Pictured: Passengers on platform at Glasgow central station last month)
Scotland saw biggest rise in cases (Pictured: Passengers on platform at Glasgow central station last month) (PA)

Hospital admissions with the virus plateaued in the last week of February after steadily declining from early January. On the latest date for which data is available, 26 February, there was a slight week-on-week rise from 970 to 1,040.

The overall uptick in cases – which are still very low compared with months ago – comes after the more transmissible BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron became dominant in the UK.

The UK Health Security Agency said BA.2 accounted for 52.3 per cent of cases by 20 February, in the latest variant breakdown data.

Scientists said the rise of BA.2 was no cause for panic.

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline earlier this week that a rise in cases fuelled by the sub-variant would only be brief.

Deaths from Covid have been in decline since 21 January after spiking during the Omicron wave.

Despite an overall decline, data shows more people in deprived areas have been dying from the virus since the turn of the year.

At least 30 per cent more Covid deaths have occurred in the most deprived areas of England since the turn of the year, Office for National Statistics figures showed.

Of the 7,053 deaths registered in the six weeks after 1 January, 1,589 (22.5 per cent) were from the most deprived 20 per cent of the country, compared to 1,188 (16.8 per cent) in the least deprived 20 per cent.

Ministers have been warned that these disparities will only widen as the government withdraws universal free testing and isolation rules and removes sick payments for those ill with Covid.

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