Covid cases are now peaking in every region of England, and official data now appears in more evidence that the worst of the Omicron outbreak is over.
Daily infections nationwide have fallen week by week in the past seven days, and yesterday dropped below six figures — to just under 98,000 — for the first time in more than two weeks.
Infections were only increasing in the northeast, but the latest government figures show they are now mirroring the rest of the country. The fascinating maps show how the virus appears to be fading naturally, with cases declining week by week in nearly 87 percent of regions.
The Northeast has become a hotspot for Omicron in recent weeks after the outbreak moved north, and is home to seven of the 10 local authorities with the largest outbreaks. One in 40 people (2.6 percent) living in the area has tested positive in the last week, the highest percentage at any point in the pandemic.
Hospitalizations – which is a lagging indicator – continued to rise with nearly 400 daily Covid admissions in the region last week, similar to levels seen during the devastating second wave.
But admissions to critical care beds have risen slightly since the outbreak of Covid in England began to escalate, which has given the No.10 shirt holder confidence in his ability to weather the current wave. A group of experts believe that Omicron infection is now at a peak in the country.
However, record numbers of people are still infected, according to the most reliable monitoring survey. Analysts at the Office for National Statistics today published an interactive map revealing the worst-hit areas in the country, which showed that one in eight people had the virus last week in parts of Lancashire.
England is now preparing to ease restrictions that have been put in place to fight Omicron. The health minister told MPs yesterday that vaccine passports may be revoked by the end of this month, and ministers are considering scrapping work-from-home guidelines. Both are scheduled to be reviewed on January 26.
Self-isolation will be cut to five days on Monday for vaccinated people who test positive, with Sajid Javid saying the move would make the UK ‘freest in Europe’.
UK Health Security Agency figures showed Covid-19 cases fell in 87 per cent of England’s last week, or 129 out of 149 local authorities. For comparison, in the previous seven days (left) spellings were only located in 15 council regions
3.7 million people tested positive for Covid on any given day last week in England – but cases have been slowing nationally, according to a surveillance study from the country’s Office for National Statistics.
Areas in the northwest, northeast and Yorkshire were hit hard by the new type last week as it began burning in London and the south
Percentage of people who were carriers of Covid in countries of origin in the UK in the week ending January 6
Northeast: Pictured above is the infection rate of Covid in the Northeast, which indicates that its cases are starting to peak
Northeast: The above shows how many patients are hospitalized with Covid every day. It is now in the region at the same level as it was last winter
Northeast: The above shows the number of COVID patients in hospital beds in the region. There are early signs that this may be at a lower level than the previous winter
NE: And up is the number of Covid patients on mechanical ventilated beds. This did not rise in an indication that Omicron is milder than its predecessors
ONS monitoring showed 4.3 million Britons had Covid last week
It is believed that 4.3 million Britons had Covid last week.
The latest Office for National Statistics shows that regions in the North West, North East and Yorkshire were the hardest hit by the new variable as it started to burn itself out in London and the South.
More than 10 per cent of people tested positive for the virus in the seven days to January 6 in the worst-hit places, including Berry, Wirral, West Lancashire, Burnley, Rochdale and Solihull.
An interactive map was published as part of the weekly report, which found that infections had reached new highs in all four countries.
It is estimated that 1 in 15 people became infected on any given day last week in England, while the rate was 1 in 20 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Although infections have continued to grow in the last week, the 14 percent increase is the smallest increase since Omicron became dominant at the beginning of December.
The slowdown in infection is in line with a growing body of evidence showing that the Omicron wave is receding.
More recent government dashboard data shows cases are now declining in every country in the UK and every region in England. Daily acceptance appears to have leveled off across Britain.
Middlesbrough leads the way with about 3,100 injuries per 100,000 people, with Hartlepool (2,900) and Stockton-on-Tees (2,800) among the top three.
UK Health Security Agency scientists calculate the infection rate across regions of England using the number of positive swabs recorded over the previous seven days.
Its latest figures, as of January 8, show cases are now declining in all of the region by the day, and in five of them – the East Midlands, East England, London, North West and South East – they are declining week by week.
The Northeast (2,572.4) remains the country’s Covid hotspot, recording the most cases per 100,000 people, but they are now starting to trend downward.
The second highest infection rate was in the North West (2132.6), followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (1,977.5) and the West Midlands (1,785.6).
At the other end of the scale were the southwest (1,270.2), the southeast (1,374.1) and the east of England (1,460.7). London had the sixth highest infection rate (1526.5).
In a sign that the decline in the Northeast is real and not due to a change in the PCR positivity rate — the percentage of swabs that detect the virus — also began to decline.
The infection statistics relate to the period before the testing rules were changed so that Britons who tested positive using lateral flow did not need to have PCR confirmation. But the numbers were already dropping before then.
Fewer Covid tests were also conducted over the holiday period, which led to a slight skew in the official numbers.
But survey rates have now risen to the levels they were before Christmas, giving some of the country’s leading experts confidence that the decline in cases is real.
Hospitalizations across the Northeast have yet to drop, reaching 390 admissions per day, approaching last winter’s peak of 430.
But the number of hospitalized Covid patients has fallen in recent days to 3,000, which is about four-fifths of the previous peak, while the numbers on ventilator beds are up a bit.
The British Health Security Agency’s weekly estimate of today’s R rate was between 1.1 and 1.5, which means it has fallen slightly. Health chiefs argued last week that the number was at least 1.2.
The team concluded that the reproduction rate in London could be as high as 0.7.
If the number is less than one, this means that the infection is shrinking. The R number reflects the average number of people to whom each infected patient transmits the virus.
However, the R rate is a lagging indicator and does not reflect the current situation. Instead, it paints a clearer picture of how quickly the virus was spreading three weeks ago.
Ministers once put an R rate at the center of their Covid battle plan. But it is now less important because experts are paying more attention to hospitalization and mortality rates, given the start of large-scale successful vaccination in the country.
In a meeting with Tory MPs yesterday, Mr Javid hailed the “encouraging signs” but cautioned that hospitals remained under “great pressure”, The Times reported.
Currently, people in England need to show evidence of vaccination or a negative lateral flow to enter big events and nightclubs.
A source in Whitehall told the newspaper: “There has always been a very high threshold for this policy and it seems increasingly likely within two weeks that that threshold will not be met. The way the issues are going it will be difficult to justify the renewal.
The UK government faced the biggest Conservative rebellion since the start of the pandemic over the introduction of Plan B measures last month, with more than 100 Conservatives voting against it.
Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, has resigned in large part in protest of the restrictions being rolled out. Yesterday he criticized the “Covid Theater” of masks and corridors, calling the closure a “grave mistake”.
The Times reports that it is unlikely that Covid permits will be renewed if the Health Ministry argues they are no longer needed.
Alicia Kearns, MP for Rutland and Milton, pressed yesterday the health minister to commit to “dropping the local certification at the earliest opportunity”.
‘I assure her and the Board,’ he replied, ‘that as far as I am concerned, we will not hold the Domestic Certificate longer than absolutely necessary.’
Former Cabinet Secretary Greg Clark called on Mr. Javid to lift the restrictions later this month, saying they have “an impact beyond Covid as we know”.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Javid cut the number of days people would have to self-isolate if they tested positive for Covid in England to five.
The health minister told MPs that data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) showed “about two-thirds of positive cases were no longer contagious by the end of the fifth day”.
He added: ‘After reviewing all the evidence, we have taken the decision to reduce the minimum period of self-isolation to a full five days in England. From Monday, people can take the test twice before they go – and leave isolation at the start of the sixth day.
“These two tests are important to these balanced and proportional plans, and I urge everyone to take advantage of the capabilities we have built in the tests so that we can restore freedoms to this country while keeping everyone safe.”
It comes after the UK Health Security Agency’s weekly report revealed yesterday that Covid cases fell in 87 per cent of England’s last week, or 129 out of 149 local authorities.
For comparison, it was only declining in 18 council regions in the previous seven-day period.
Its numbers – based on national testing data – revealed a decline in cases in all but the under-20 age groups, and in all but the Northeast.