Up to one in five people in London’s worst-hit boroughs may have had Covid on New Year’s Eve, surveillance data showed today — although infections were slowing in the capital overall.
The Office for National Statistics’ weekly report estimated 3.3million people nationwide were infected on any given day during the final week of 2021, up 60 per cent on the previous spell. It means that one in 15 people were thought to have the virus on NYE, with the incidence even higher in London (one in 10).
And the numbers were higher still in parts of the capital hit hardest by the ultra-transmissible variant, with up to 18 per cent of people being infected in Tower Hamlets, according to the ONS’ upper estimates.
But despite the huge wave of cases caused by Omicron in London, early signs suggest infections are falling, with around 7.8 per cent of people thought to have the virus — down from 9.3 per cent the previous week.
Experts believe infections may have already peaked in the capital, which is weeks ahead of the rest of the country, in a positive sign for what may come nationally. Hospital admissions are already trending downwards across the city.
And in yet more proof the wave is receding in London, the city’s R rate dropped from between 1.2 and 1.6 on December 23 to 0.9 to 1.2 now according to the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) estimate today.
The rate — which means every 10 people infected in the city are giving the virus to nine to 12 others, on average— is a lagging indicator, meaning it could have been below one before Christmas.
The ONS’ weekly infection survey is regarded as the most reliable indicator of the UK’s outbreak because it uses random sampling of around 100,000 people, rather than relying on people coming forward to be tested.
More up-to-date case data from the UKHSA shows positive tests fell for the first time week-on-week in over a month across the UK yesterday.
In yet more proof the wave is receding in London, the city’s R rate dropped from between 1.2 and 1.6 on December 23 to 0.9 to 1.2 now according to the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) estimate today. The rate is above one in all other areas of the country
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated a record 3.27million people in England were infected on any given day in the week to December 31, up more than 60 per cent on the previous week
despite the huge wave of cases caused by the Omicron variant in London, early sign suggest infections are falling, with around 7.8 per cent of people thought to have the virus on December 31 — down from 9.3 per cent the previous week. Graphs show: The average infection rate over the week in regions across England
The percentage of people testing positive for Covid continued to increase across all age groups in the week, the ONS said
Infections were highest in young people aged from school year 12 to 24 years old (8.34 per cent) and those aged 25 to 34 (7.83 per cent) and primary school children (7.72 per cent)
The Omicron variant is dominant all regions in England, infecting 7.7 per cent of all Londoners and 7.1 per cent of people in the North West during the week
The ONS data shows London no longer has the highest infection rate in the country, with the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber and North East overtaking the capital.
But several boroughs in the city still far exceed most of the rest of England on a more local level, with the City of London, Hackney and Islington having the second highest rate, with a maximum of 16.4 per cent infected.
Nearly 40% of NHS Covid ‘patients’ in England are NOT being treated for virus
Nearly four in ten Covid patients in hospitals in England are not primarily being treated for the virus, according to official data that highlights the mildness of Omicron.
NHS figures released today show there were around 13,000 beds occupied by coronavirus sufferers on January 4, of which nearly 4,850 were not mainly sick with the disease.
It means nearly 40 per cent of patients included in the Government’s daily Covid statistics may have been admitted for something else, such as a broken leg.
The share of so-called ‘incidental’ cases was even bigger in Omicron hotspot London, where 45 per cent of ‘Covid patients’ were not primarily in hospital for the virus.
Experts say there is reason to believe that incidentals will continue to rise as the variant pushes England’s infection rates to record highs, with one in 15 people estimated to have had Covid on New Year’s Eve.
In South Africa — ground zero of the Omicron outbreak — up to 60 per cent of Covid patients were not admitted primarily for the virus at the height of the crisis there.
There are growing calls among experts and politicians for the Government to differentiate between people admitted ‘with’ and ‘from’ Covid to assess the real pressure of the virus on the NHS.
They are followed by Nottingham (13.8 per cent). But five of the other top ten areas were based in London: Southwark (13.7 per cent), Hammersmith and Fulham, Lambeth (both 13.5 per cent), Greenwich (13.3 per cent) and Wandsworth (13.2 per cent).
The figures are the ONS statisticians’ upper estimates made for infection rates, meaning the true number with the virus may have in fact been lower.
And the data suggests infections were already falling in the capital, in line with several other data sources suggesting London’s Omicron wave has already peaked.
Infections are still increasing in other regions of the country, however, with the biggest jump seen in the North East, where the rate increased 11 per cent in a week.
The percentage of people testing positive for Covid continued to increase across all age groups in the week, the ONS said.
Statisticians said: ‘For those in school Year 7 to school Year 11 and those aged between 25 and 49 years, the trend in the percentage testing positive was uncertain in the last few days of 2021.
‘This may mean that infections are no longer increasing among these age groups, but it is currently too early to suggest if this is a continuing change in trend.
‘Caution should be taken in over-interpreting any small movements in the latest trend.’
Infections were highest in young people aged from school year 12 to 24 years old (8.34 per cent) and those aged 25 to 34 (7.83 per cent) and primary school children (7.72 per cent).
People aged 70 and over had the lowest rate in the country (2.2 per cent) but they saw the highest rise, nearly doubling in a week.
Experts feared cases would increase in the age group over the festive period because of higher levels of intergenerational mixing.
Professor James Naismith, a structural biologist at the University of Oxford, said: ‘The fall in London is encouraging and mirrors South Africa, it also sets an upper limit elsewhere in the UK. This upper limit will seriously stretch NHS and society where it is reached.
‘That Omicron could have been worse should not blind us to some important observations that might help us in the future
‘I would add Omicron is less severe than Delta in terms of hospitalisations per 1000 cases, particularly in the vaccinated and previously infected. The most effective defence is immunisation — boosters reduce the risk of infection.’
King’s College London scientists today suggested that cases in the capital also appeared to be peaking. They said they had dropped by a third within a week, raising hopes that the worst of the outbreak may be over. The figures rely on weekly reports from three quarters of a million people nationally to estimate the prevalence of the virus
UK Health Security Agency figures published today showed London’s Covid cases had fallen six per cent in a week (green line). It is the only region to see cases fall, and now has the fifth biggest outbreak in England
The above maps show the percentage change in infection rates across London’s 32 boroughs over the week to December 26 (left) and the week to January 2 (right). They indicate that the outbreak is slowing in the city
Pictured above is the % change in infection rates in England over the week to December 26 (left), and January 2 (right)
Nationally, Covid cases rose eight per cent last week the app estimated. They said there was a slowdown in rising infections across London and in 18 to 35-year-olds
Fewer than a THIRD of adults have already had their Covid booster vaccine in parts of England
Fewer than a third of adults have still yet to get a Covid booster vaccine in areas lagging most behind in England’s roll-out, MailOnline can reveal.
Uptake sits at just 29.3 per cent in Newham, with rates similarly low in the two other London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Barking and Dagenham.
Meanwhile, latest NHS statistics show a sixth of the country’s 300-plus authorities have yet to even reach 50 per cent of all over-18s. And even the area doing the best, Hambleton in Yorkshire, has only just tipped the 75 per cent barrier.
Separate analysis suggests around 10million eligible adults have still yet to get a third dose, although many will be ineligible because they caught the virus itself in the past month.
Experts today called on Britons to come forward for their third jabs, saying that it clearly ‘does its job’ in bolstering protection against hospitalisation and death. Ministers say 90 per cent of Covid patients in intensive care are not boosted.
They urged the Government to put out ‘much clearer’ messaging on the benefits of the jab, saying it was hard to convince sceptical people to change their minds if ministers kept saying Omicron was milder.
Despite the R rate dropping in London, the UKHSA’s latest estimate for the England-wide number ranges between 1.2 to 1.5 — up from between 1.0 and 1.2 on December 23.
The figure is above one — meaning outbreaks were growing — in all other areas of the country, with the highest range coming in the North East and Yorkshire at 1.3 to 1.6.
It comes after the country’s largest symptom-tracking study found London’s Covid cases are slowing down just a month after the Omicron variant took hold.
The finding is the latest piece of evidence that the capital’s outbreaks is peaking and comes as daily Covid hospital admissions fell for the fourth day in a row.
The symptom study, led by King’s College London scientists, estimated 33,000 were testing positive in the capital each day in the week to January 3, down a third on the week before.
KCL’s Dr Claire Steves, who co-runs the study, said there was definitely a ‘slow down’ in cases but it was ‘too early’ to confirm if they had peaked. She warned the return of schools could trigger further outbreaks.
In another promising sign, UK Health Security Agency’s weekly Covid surveillance report revealed that London’s cases fell six per cent last week.
They said the capital was no longer the country’s epicentre for the first time since Omicron took hold, with the North West now taking up that mantle, followed by the North East and Yorkshire.
Government dashboard data also suggest cases in London are flatlining. There were 21,854 cases in the capital today, down 11 per cent in a week.
Hospital admissions fell for the fourth day in a row. There were 367 Covid hospitalisations on January 4, the latest date with data, marking a 20 per cent fall on the previous week and the largest week-on-week drop yet.
Fewer than 400 people are now being admitted in the capital on average each day compared to around 900 at the peak of the second wave last January.
But scientists say it is difficult to untangle what is happening in the capital because up to four million Londoners leave for Christmas.
NHS figures released today show there were 13,045 beds occupied by coronavirus sufferers on January 4, of which 4,845 were not mainly sick with the disease. It means only six in 10 inpatients are primarily ill with Covid now compared to more than 80 per cent with Delta
Experts say there is reason to believe that incidentals will continue to rise as the variant pushes England’s infection rates to record highs, with one in 15 people estimated to have had Covid on New Year’s Eve
The share of so-called ‘incidental’ cases was even bigger in Omicron hotspot London , where 45 per cent of ‘Covid patients’ were not primarily in hospital for the virus
The proportion of beds occupied by patients who are primarily in hospital ‘for’ Covid, versus those who were admitted for something else and tested positive later, referred to as ‘with’ Covid. The data covers the week between December 21 and December 28, when were around 2,100 additional beds occupied by the virus in England — of which 1,150 were primary illness (55 per cent). That suggests 45 per cent were not seriously ill with Covid, yet were counted in the official statistics. In the South East of England 66 per cent were primarily non-Covid, in the East of England it was 51 per cent and in London it was 48 per cent. Critics argue, however, that the figures are unreliable because they don’t include discharges, which could skew the data. But they add to the growing trend
Latest figures show that hospitals in England have actually had fewer beds occupied this winter than they did pre-Covid. An average of 89,097 general and acute beds were open each day in the week to December 26, of which 77,901 were occupied. But the NHS was looking after more hospital patients in the week to December 26 in 2019, 2018 and 2017
While Covid hospitalisations are rising quickly in England, they are still half of the level of last January and far fewer patients are needing ventilation
Official figures show that the number of Covid and non-Covid absences in the NHS grew through December