UK Covid infections rocket as Germany declares 'critical situation'

Rise in cases offers stark reminder that virus has not magically disappeared

The number of new Covid-19 cases has risen sharply in Britain over the past week, but with little comment from the UK government.

In contrast, in Germany, where a quarter of a million new cases were reported on Friday, authorities have berated the population for becoming lax over Covid's threat.

British government figures showed 71,259 new cases on Thursday — up 59 per cent from the 44,740 reported last Friday.

Prevalence of the disease is also up in the UK, with 2.6 million people estimated to have coronavirus last week, up from 2.4 million the week prior, according to Office for National Statistics data. About one in 26 of the UK population currently has Covid-19.

This is a probable consequence of the decision to lift all remaining Covid rules at the end of February and is unlikely unduly to worry the British government which has transitioned to a “living with Covid” strategy.

But while the UK government seems relaxed about the increase, the German government on Friday declared a “critical situation” due to its surge.

“I often read that the Omicron variant is less virulent. That's only partially true,” said German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach. He said 249 people died from the disease on Thursday alone.

“Germany is in a critical situation,” he said, warning that intensive care services could get overwhelmed and cases of long Covid could grow.

Mr Lauterbach said the public and political mood was deceptive — that “we have mastered the pandemic”.

But “we cannot be satisfied with a situation where 200 to 250 people are dying a day”, a toll that could worsen in the coming weeks, he said.

In the UK, 11,944 people were in hospital with the coronavirus on Thursday and there has been a slight increase in the seven-day average. However, ministers will note that only one per cent of those patients required mechanical ventilation — which is provided to those most seriously ill.

Unless hospital numbers rise enough to threaten to overwhelm the National Health Service, there appears little chance of the UK government changing tack.

It is being reported that the UK will soon abolish all remaining Covid travel rules too — a move that will delight the travel industry but which has worried some scientists.

Scotland sees Covid cases reach record high

This is the first time since the end of January that all nations in the UK have seen a simultaneous week-on-week increase in infections.

Around one in 25 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to March 5, or 2.1 million people, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is up from one in 30, or 1.9 million people, the previous week, and comes after three successive weeks where infections in England were estimated to have fallen.

Scotland has seen infection levels rise for six weeks in a row, with 299,900 people likely to have had the virus last week — one in 18 of the population.

This is the highest figure for Scotland since estimates began in autumn 2020, according to analysis by the PA news agency.

The previous record was 297,400 people in the first week of this year.

Wales and Northern Ireland both saw a jump in prevalence last week following a period of falling infections, with the estimate for Wales up from 94,200 people to 97,900, one in 30, and Northern Ireland up from 106,300 people to 143,800, one in 13.

Updated: March 11, 2022, 6:50 PM