Covid-19 infections have dropped by more than a million in Britain in the space of a fortnight, in a fresh sign the current wave of the virus has peaked, new figures show.
It is the second week in a row that cases have fallen.
The number of patients in hospital with the virus is also on a clear downwards trend.
A total of 2.6 million people in private households are estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week to July 25/26, down 19 per cent from 3.2 million in the previous week, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Cases stood at 3.8 million a week earlier.
A record 4.9 million infections were recorded at the peak of the BA. 2 Omicron wave in late March, however.
Dr Rhiannon Yapp, co-lead for the ONS Covid-19 infection survey, said: “Our most recent data suggests that infection rates have continued to decrease across much of the UK, although rates still remain high.
“We have seen continued decreases in all regions and age groups in England. With the summer holidays and more people travelling, we will continue to closely monitor the data.”
The latest wave has been driven by the BA. 4 and BA. 5 Omicron subvariants of the virus.
High levels of coronavirus antibodies among the population — either from vaccination or previous infection — mean the number of people seriously ill or dying from the virus remains low.
Some 2.1 million people in England were likely to have tested positive for Covid-19 in the week to July 26, the equivalent of around one in 25, the ONS said.
That is down from 2.6 million, or one in 20, a week earlier.
Wales has seen infections fall to 108,800, or one in 30 people, from 156,200, or one in 19.
In Scotland, 260,800 were estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week to July 26, or about one in 20.
That is down slightly from 272,000, or one in 19.
Northern Ireland is the only UK nation where the ONS described the trend as “uncertain”.
Infections there have dropped very slightly to 109,800, or one in 17, from 113,400, or one in 16.
A variety of data published in the past few days suggests the wave is now receding.
Hospital admissions in England of people with Covid-19 stood at 12.1 per 100,000 in the seven days to July 31, according to new figures from the UK Health Security Agency.
This is down from 15.6 per 100,000 in the previous seven days, and is the second successive week-on-week fall.
The rate of admissions to intensive care units has decreased from 0.5 per 100,000 to 0.4 — again, the second weekly drop in a row.
Patient numbers in the latest wave have not risen as high as they did during the waves earlier this year, both of which saw peaks above 16,000.
Numbers have also remained well below the peak reached during the Alpha wave of infections in January 2021, when more than 34,000 patients with Covid-19 were in hospital.
There have been three Omicron waves of coronavirus so far this year, with the spring wave, driven by BA. 2, sending infections to record levels.
High levels of coronavirus antibodies among the population, either from vaccination or previous infection, have meant the number of people seriously ill or dying from the virus has stayed low, however.