According to data from the Office for National Statistics, the number of Covid cases in the UK increased by a million in a week. As the contagious Omicron variant BA.2 spreads, swab tests suggest that one out of every 16 people is infected. That’s slightly more than 4.3 million people, up from 3.3 million the previous week.
The figures for the week ending March 19 are thought to be the most accurate representation of what’s going on in the community with the virus.
England and Wales saw an increase in rates, while Scotland saw a new high. In Northern Ireland, however, infection rates have begun to decline.
The following were the national rates:
England: 6.4 percent, up from 4.9 percent last week, or about one in every 16 people.
Wales: 6.4 percent, up from 4.1 percent last week – roughly one out of every 16 people
Northern Ireland: 5.9%, down from 7.1 percent last week – about one in every seventeen people.
Scotland: 9%, up from 7.15 percent last week – about one in every eleven people
Because of the high number of infections, Covid hospitalizations are expected to rise in the UK, though experts say vaccines are still helping to prevent many severe cases.
Prof Sir Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said earlier this week that while the virus was putting strain on the NHS, the high rates of transmission were not translating into a large number of intensive care cases or deaths.
Staff absences at NHS hospitals in England have increased by 31% in the week to March 13 due to Covid. About 23,127 hospital staff in England – about 2% of the total workforce – were absent, either because they were sick with the virus or because they were self-isolating.
People aged 75 and older, as well as those who are immunocompromised, can get a Covid booster shot in the spring.