UK Covid cases surge 32% in one week as subvariants spread

News of a country-wide jump in cases comes a day after the UK Health Security Agency reported that England’s hospital admissions are climbing again, with intensive-care cases spreading among older age groups.
Image: Bloomberg

Britain’s Covid-19 infections are rising sharply as omicron subvariants spark new outbreaks across the country.

The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 is estimated at 2.3 million in the week through June 24, up 32% from the previous week, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics on Friday.

This suggests that coronavirus is estimated to be infecting every 1 in 30 people in England and Wales, every 1 in 25 people in Northern Ireland as well as every 1 in 18 people in Scotland.

News of a country-wide jump in cases comes a day after the UK Health Security Agency reported that England’s hospital admissions are climbing again, with intensive-care cases spreading among older age groups.

A recent upturn in infections could lead to more pressure on health systems and disruption to businesses, although deaths and hospitalizations are still well behind levels during earlier Covid waves thanks to widespread immunization.

Two omicron subvariants — BA.4 and BA.5 — have now become dominant, making up more than half of new Covid cases in England, a government report last week found. The rise in prevalence of these subvariants has also led to an increase in hospitalizations and ICU admissions in some other nations, the World Health Organization said in a report last week. Still, there’s currently no evidence that they cause more severe illness than previous variants, health officials said.

Britain has largely dropped its Covid restrictions since early 2022. Face covering is no longer compulsory in most places and border entry rules related to Covid have largely been ended.

“In the absence of any population scale mitigations, we are left relying upon vaccination to prevent infection and severe disease,” said Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the School of Medicine, University of Leeds. “Whilst the latter is largely successfully achieved, there remains a considerable minority for whom this does not apply, plus we should remember that any severity of infection can lead to long Covid.”

The government has been urging elderly people, as well as those living in care homes or who are clinically vulnerable, to get their spring booster for protection against serious illness.

UK vaccine advisers last month recommended a new round of Covid boosters for elderly and vulnerable people in the fall, saying the threat could mount again as winter approaches. The new campaign would follow spring boosters for a more limited population.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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