UK ends 2021 with Covid-19 infections hitting new daily high

Survey data reveal two million people were infected in the past week

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Britain reported a new high 189,846 daily cases of Covid-19 on Friday, up slightly from 189,213 the previous day as the Omicron outbreak deepens the health crisis into the new year.

More than two million people in England were believed to be infected with Covid-19 last week, equivalent to one in 25, with figures as high as one in 15 in London.

An Office for National Statistics analysis of swabs collected from selected households showed an estimated 4 per cent of people in England, or 2,024,700 people, had Covid-19 in the week ending December 23. One in 35 people in England were estimated to have had the disease a week earlier.

“The highest rates of infections were seen in London, where one in 15 would have tested positive, and the lowest in the north-east of England, where one in 45 would have tested positive for Covid-19,” the report notes.

The proportion of Covid-19 patients being treated primarily for the virus in England’s hospitals, however, has dropped slightly, new figures show.

Meanwhile, data from NHS England, published on Friday, shows that, of the 8,321 patients with coronavirus in hospital in England on December 28, 5,578 were being treated primarily for Covid-19. This is down from 71 per cent a week earlier and 74 per cent at the start of December.

But the number being treated primarily for coronavirus was up by a quarter from 4,432 on December 21.

The statistics also show that the number of patients who had Covid-19 but were primarily being treated for something else also rose from 1,813 to 2,743, a jump of 51 per cent.

NHS England has said that Covid patients primarily being treated for another issue still have to be separated from non-Covid patients and the virus can be “a significant comorbidity”.

“The majority of inpatients with Covid-19 are admitted as a result of the infection,” a statement said. “A subset of those who contract Covid in the community and are asymptomatic or exhibited relatively mild symptoms that on their own are unlikely to warrant admission to hospital will then be admitted to hospital to be treated for something else and be identified through routine testing.

“Equally, while the admission may be due to another primary condition, in many instances, this may have been as a result of contracting Covid in the community. For example, research has shown that people with Covid are more likely to have a stroke. In these cases, people would be admitted for the stroke, classified as ‘with’ Covid, despite having had a stroke as a result of having Covid.”

The new data come a day after separate figures showed the number of patients in hospital with coronavirus in England had climbed to the highest level since February.

Official figures showed 12,395 patients in hospital in England with Covid-19, up from 11,542 on Thursday and the highest number since February 26.

During the second wave of coronavirus, the number of Covid patients in hospital in England peaked at 34,336 on January 18.

Updated: December 31, 2021, 7:04 PM