UK

Number of Britons falling ill with Covid rises by just 4% in a week

Britain’s Covid outbreak grew four per cent last week, a symptom-tracking study claimed today despite warnings Omicron is sending cases spiralling in some parts of the country.

King’s College London scientists estimated 83,658 people were catching the virus on any given day over the week to December 4, up slightly from 80,483 previously.

Infections are ticking up among under-55s, they predicted based on almost 50,000 Covid swabs, but remained low in older age groups that have received a booster. London, the South East and Wales — which have detected Omicron — saw cases rise.

Professor Tim Spector, who leads the study, warned the NHS could be overwhelmed if Omicron cases began to skyrocket. He said: ‘The higher rate of transmission even in the vaccinated could have devastating consequences, and hundreds of people continue to die every week as we head into our second Christmas of this pandemic.’

He added that Boris Johnson’s activation of winter Plan B last night was welcome but ‘too little too late’, and that many were already likely to suffer from the virus this Christmas because of the delay. 

People in England woke up this morning to tighter curbs on their daily lives, and are now asked to work from home, wear face masks in cinemas, and use vaccine passports for large events.

The UK has detected some 568 Omicron cases to date, but infections with the mutant strain may be doubling every two to three days. Health Secretary Sajid Javid has warned they could hit one million by January.

Professor Chris Whitty said in a gloomy Downing Street press conference last night that because cases were doubling so quickly the country could soon end up with ‘substantial’ figures. He added that a spike in cases was already being detected in parts of the UK.  

Britain’s daily Covid cases rose 6.1 per cent in a week yesterday after another 51,342 were detected. Hospitalisations also ticked up 3.3 per cent to 729, but deaths fell after 161 were recorded.

King’s College London scientists estimated that 83,658 people in the UK were catching the virus every day last week, up four per cent on the same time the week before

They suggested cases were rising among the under-55s but remained low in older age groups that have already received a booster vaccine

They suggested cases were rising among the under-55s but remained low in older age groups that have already received a booster vaccine

London, the South East and Wales are seeing cases rise, they suggested. But these remain level in other age groups

London, the South East and Wales are seeing cases rise, they suggested. But these remain level in other age groups

At a Downing Street press conference last night, the PM declared that people should once again work from home where possible, as well as extending use of masks and introducing Covid passports for nightclubs

At a Downing Street press conference last night, the PM declared that people should once again work from home where possible, as well as extending use of masks and introducing Covid passports for nightclubs

In total, there are 46,000 Covid cases on average each day in the UK and data from the Covid Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) suggests the new strain is already behind around one in 66 of them, or 1.4 per cent

In total, there are 46,000 Covid cases on average each day in the UK and data from the Covid Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) suggests the new strain is already behind around one in 66 of them, or 1.4 per cent

There is growing pressure on the Government to tighten restrictions after the total number of British Omicron cases rose to 568 today, with the highly evolved variant now in every country in the UK and almost every region of England

There is growing pressure on the Government to tighten restrictions after the total number of British Omicron cases rose to 568 today, with the highly evolved variant now in every country in the UK and almost every region of England

The Covid symptom study — also run by health data science company ZOE — estimates the prevalence of the virus across the UK based on daily reports on whether they are feeling unwell from 650,000 contributors, and nearly 50,000 Covid tests.

The study has had no confirmed cases of Omicron to date, but sources said they were planning to add a feature to ask users whether they had tested positive for the mutant strain.

Professor Spector said: ‘Covid is unpredictable and even if most only feel like they’ve got a cold, there are far more long-term risks than a cold carries. 

‘If numbers skyrocket, it doesn’t matter if the percentage of people being hospitalised or dying remain low, it’s about volume, not percentages.’

He added: ‘I’m pleased the government has finally taken some action and implemented Plan B. 

‘We called for this back in September, but as usual, it’s too little too late, and many will suffer hardships this Christmas as a result. 

‘Unless we see major behavioural change as a result, I expect that Covid rates will climb higher than ever in 2022. 

‘ZOE has now introduced a new feature into the app that allows people to share their Omicron experiences and symptoms, so we will be analysing the data in the coming weeks.’


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