A new interactive map has revealed the UK’s Omicron hotspots last week, when a record 4.3million Britons were thought to have been carrying Covid.
It shows that areas in the North West, North East and Yorkshire were hit hardest by the new variant as it began to burn itself out in London and the south.
More than 10 per cent of people tested positive in the seven days to January 6 in the worst-affected places, which included Burnley, Bury, Rochdale and Liverpool in the North West, as well as Solihull in the Midlands and the Tower Hamlets borough of London.
The map was published as part of the Office for National Statistics’ weekly surveillance report, which estimated that infections hit new highs in all four home nations.
One in 15 people were estimated to have been infectious on any given day last week in England, while the rate was one in 20 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Even though infections continued to grow in the most recent week, the 14 per cent rise is the smallest jump since Omicron became dominant at the start of December. The slowing down in infections is in line with a growing body of evidence showing the Omicron wave is subsiding.
More up-to-date Government dashboard data shows that cases are now falling in every country in the UK and every region of England. Daily admissions also appear to have plateaued across Britain.
Type the name of your area into the search bar below to see how many people tested positive last week
A record 3.7million people were infected with Covid on any day last week in England — but cases were slowing nationally, the country’s gold-standard Office for National Statistics’ surveillance study has found
Areas in the North West, North East and Yorkshire were hit hardest by the new variant last week as it began to burn itself out in London and the south
The percentage of people who were carrying Covid in the UK home nations in the week to January 6
The ONS report, used by ministers to guide Covid policy, is regarded as the most reliable indicator of the outbreak because it uses random sampling of 100,000 people, rather than relying on people coming forward for tests.
It estimated there were 3.7million people infected on any given day last week in England, up from 3.3million during the previous spell.
Before the emergence of Omicron, that figure rarely rose above 1million, but the ultra-transmissible variant has pushed the country’s infection rate to astronomical levels.
Broken down, the ONS said infections definitely increased across all regions of England in the most recent week except in London, but the trend was uncertain in eastern England.
In the capital, one in 15 people were estimated to have had Covid in the week to January 6, down from one in 10 the previous week. In the East, the figure was about one in 20.
The highest regional rates are now estimated to be in the North West and Yorkshire/Humber, with one in 10 people testing positive. South West England has the lowest rate, at around one in 25.
Elsewhere in the UK, nearly 170,000 people were thought to be carrying Covid in Wales last week, nearly 300,000 in Scotland, and 100,000 in Northern Ireland. All three figures were the equivalent of one in 20.
The ONS data also shows that number of Covid cases in the over 50s continues to grow while cases in younger age groups were stable or slightly declining.
Meanwhile, new official data shows Covid cases have now peaked in every region of England, in more proof that the worst of the Omicron outbreak is over.
Daily infections have dropped nationwide week-on-week for the last seven days, and yesterday dipped below six figures – to slightly less than 98,000 – for the first time in more than a fortnight.
The North East was the only region where infections were still rising, but latest Government figures show they are now mirroring the rest of the country.
The region had become a hotspot for Omicron in recent weeks after the outbreak moved north, and it is home to seven of the 10 local authorities with the highest infection rates. One in 40 people (2.6 per cent) of people in the North East tested positive in the most recent week, the highest of any point in the pandemic.
Hospitalisations – which are a lagging indicator – have continued to rise with almost 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 barely risen since England’s Covid outbreak began to spiral, which gave No10 the confidence it could ‘ride out’ the current wave. And a host of experts believe Omicron infections are now peaking in the country.
UK Health Security Agency figures showed Covid cases were falling in 87 per cent of England’s areas last week, or 129 out of 149 local authorities. For comparison, in the previous seven-day spell (left) cases were only falling in 15 council areas
A raft of promising statistics yesterday showed the Omicron wave is subsiding, with one showing infections are pointing downwards across all regions and in almost every age group.
With the worst of the outbreak seemingly over, England is now preparing to ease restrictions that were brought in to fight Omicron.
The Health Secretary told MPs yesterday that vaccine passports could be scrapped before the end of this month, and ministers are also considering ditching work from home guidance. Both are set to be reviewed on January 26.
Self-isolation will be cut to five days on Monday for vaccinated people who test positive for the virus, with Sajid Javid saying the move will make the UK the ‘freest in Europe’.
The North East (2,572.4) is still the country’s Covid hotspot, recording the most cases per 100,000 people, but they are now starting to point downwards.
The second-highest infection rate was in the North West (2,132.6), followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (1,977.5) and the West Midlands (1,785.6).
At the other end of the scale was the South West (1,270.2), the South East (1,374.1) and the East of England (1,460.7). London had the sixth highest infection rate (1,526.5).
In a sign the North East’s drop is genuine and not down to a change in testing its PCR positivity rate — the proportion of swabs that detect the virus — has also started to fall.
Infection statistics relate to the period before testing rules were changed so that Britons who test positive using a lateral flow no longer need to get a confirmatory PCR. But the figures were already dropping before then.
Hospitalisations across the region are yet to drop having reached 390 admissions a day, nearing last winter’s peak of 430.
But the number of Covid patients in hospital has flattened out in recent days at 3,000 which is around four-fifths of the previous peak, while the numbers on mechanical ventilator beds have barely risen.
At a meeting with Tory MPs yesterday, Mr Javid hailed the ‘encouraging signs’ but warned that hospitals remained under ‘significant pressure’, The Times reports.
Currently, people in England need to show proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow to enter large events and nightclubs.
A Whitehall source told the paper: ‘There was always a very high threshold for the policy and it looks increasingly likely in a couple of weeks that threshold won’t be met. The way cases are going it will be hard to justify renewing.’
The UK Government faced its biggest Tory revolt since the start of the pandemic over the introduction of Plan B measures last month, with more than 100 Conservatives voting against them.
The PM’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost dramatically resigned in protest over the rollout of the curbs. Yesterday he slammed the ‘Covid theatre’ of masks and passes, and called lockdown a ‘serious mistake’.
The Times reports that it is unlikely that Covid passes will be renewed if the Department of Health argues they are no longer needed.
Alicia Kearns, the MP for Rutland and Melton, yesterday pressed the Health Secretary to commit ‘to dropping domestic certification at the earliest possible opportunity’.