Covid: Record 1.7 million people in UK infected last week

Rapid spread of Omicron ‘a significant factor’ in trend

Jane Dalton
Friday 24 December 2021 15:55
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Coronavirus in numbers

An estimated 1.7 million people in the UK had Covid-19 last week - a record for the pandemic, official figures suggest.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, for Monday 13 to Sunday 19 December, showed infections were at their highest since comparable figures began in autumn last year.

The statistics reinforce evidence from Thursday, when the record infection rate was first revealed.

It’s estimated one in 35 people in in private households in England was infected - or 2.83 per cent of the population. In Northern Ireland, it’s thought the tally was one in 40 people.

The highest proportion of infections in England was in London, where around one in 20 people had coronavirus.

The number of infections thought to be the Omicron variant increased last week, as did people testing positive for Covid in all four UK nations, the ONS reported.

Infections rose among all age groups in England, and in all regions apart from the southwest, where the trend was uncertain, officials said.

Senior ONS statistician Esther Sutherland said the figures suggested the rapid spread of Omicron was a significant factor in the trend.

Omicron is known to be four to five times more transmissible than the delta variant.

Earlier, the head of the UK’s health security organisation said data suggesting Omicron may be less likely to lead to serious illness than the Delta variant offered a “glimmer of Christmas hope” - but warned that it is too early to downgrade the threat from the new strain.

UK Health Security Agency chief executive Jenny Harries told Radio 4’s Today that more information was needed, particularly about the effect on elderly and vulnerable patients.

She added: “There is a glimmer of Christmas hope in the findings that we published yesterday, but it definitely isn’t yet at the point where we could downgrade that serious threat.”

The UKHSA estimates that someone with Omicron is between 31 per cent and 45 per cent less likely to attend A&E and at least 50 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital than an individual with the Delta variant.

The rapid spread of Omicron has seen it become the “dominant strain now right across the UK”, and Dr Harries said cases were still doubling across “most regions” of the country.

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