UK Covid infections rise above one million again

The new Office for National Statistics figures come alongside early signs that Covid-19 patient levels in England are also starting to rise.

A person dripping testing solution into a Covid 19 lateral flow testing strip (Danny Lawson/PA)
A person dripping testing solution into a Covid 19 lateral flow testing strip (Danny Lawson/PA)

Covid-19 infections across the UK have risen above one million again, with levels increasing in England for the first time since mid-October, new figures show.

The new Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures come alongside early signs that Covid-19 patient levels in England are also starting to rise once more.

The total number of people in private households in the UK testing positive for coronavirus rose to 1.0 million in the week to November 21, up 6% from 972,400 the previous week, according to the ONS.

It is the first increase in UK-wide infections since the week ending October 17 and comes a week after the infection levels dropped below one million for the first time since mid-September.

People testing positive for Covid-19 in private households in the UK
(PA Graphics)

During the latest wave, the total peaked at just over two million in mid-October.

This is well below the peaks seen earlier in the year, when infections climbed to nearly four million in July and just under five million in March.

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus in England in the week to November 21 was 873,200, or around one in 60 people, up from 809,200 the previous week, or one in 65.

Wales has recorded six consecutive weekly falls, with 39,600 people likely to have Covid-19 in the latest survey, the equivalent of one in 75 people, down from 45,400, or one in 65.

Scotland has seen infections rise to 91,100, or one in 60, up from 83,700, or one in 65, though the ONS said the trend was “uncertain”.

In Northern Ireland the trend is also described by the ONS as “uncertain”, with an estimated 28,900 people having Covid-19, or one in 65, compared with 34,100 in the previous week, which was one in 55.

Infection rates in England are highest among 35 to 49 year olds, with 1.9% likely to had have the virus in the week to November 21 – the equivalent of one in 50.

The ONS said that the proportion testing positive for Covid-19 in England had increased for those in school Year 7 to 11, school Year 12 to aged 24 years, and people aged 35 to 49 years.

In all other age groups the trend was uncertain in the week to November 21.

The ONS infection survey is the most reliable measure of the prevalence of coronavirus and is based on a sample of swab tests from households across the UK.

There is a slight lag in the reporting of the data due to the time it takes for the survey to be compiled.

Meanwhile, the latest figures show that the recent fall in the number of Covid-19 patients in England looks to have come to a halt.

A total of 4,964 people testing positive for coronavirus were in hospital as of November 30, up 8% on the previous week, NHS England figures show.

Patient numbers had been on a downwards trend for just over a month after peaking at 10,688 on October 17.

But this decline appears to have levelled of with figures for the last few days showing a small increase.

Covid-19 hospital data is published every Thursday, so it can take time for a clear trend to emerge.

Hospital admission rates are also showing signs of a rise, with 4.7 admissions per 100,000 people in the week to November 27, up slightly from 4.5 per 100,000 the previous week.

Rates are highest among people aged 85 and over, at 50.2 per 100,000.

Around two-thirds of patients in hospital who test positive for Covid-19 are being treated primarily for something else, although they need to be isolated from patients who do not have the virus, putting extra demands on staff already struggling to clear a record backlog of treatment.

And around one in five people aged 75 and over has yet to have a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

The UKHSA data, which covers vaccinations up to November 27, shows an estimated 80.8% of people aged 80 and over have received a booster, along with 81.1% of 75–79-year-olds and 78.3% of 70–74-year-olds.

All people aged 50 and over are able to book an appointment for an autumn booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine, providing they had their last jab at least three months ago.

Doses are also available to frontline health and care workers, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

Take-up is estimated to be lower among younger age groups, at 71.1% for 65–69-year-olds, 58.8% for 60–64-year-olds, 48.8% for 55 to 59-year-olds and just 38.7% for 50 to 54-year-olds.

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