The number of people with Covid-19 in hospital in the UK has climbed to its highest level for more than 13 months.
This is up 6% week-on-week and is the highest number since February 15 2021, passing the peak seen during the wave of infections at the start of this year.
But patient levels remain some way below the all-time high of 39,256 reached on January 18 last year.
Hospital numbers have been rising steadily in recent weeks, reflecting the impact of the latest surge of infections driven by the Omicron BA.2 variant.
But while prevalence of Covid-19 in the UK is currently at a record high, this has not been mirrored by similarly high patient numbers – reflecting the success of the vaccination programme, in particular the rollout of booster doses at the end of last year.
A greater proportion of people in hospital with Covid-19 are also being treated primarily for something other than the virus.
“Given that Omicron generally causes milder disease than previous variants, in particular among younger individuals, and that all individuals who are hospitalised for any reason in the UK are tested for Covid-19, an increasing proportion of individuals hospitalised with a positive test are likely to have Covid-19 as an incidental finding rather than the primary reason for admission,” the UK Health Security Agency said.
Latest figures for hospital patients in England with Covid-19 show that just over half (56%) are being treated primarily for something else rather than coronavirus, up from around a quarter in the summer and autumn of last year.
But all patients who test positive for the virus need to be treated separately from others, putting further pressure on hospitals that are already trying to clear a record backlog of people waiting for routine surgery.
Figures published last Friday by the Office for National Statistics showed prevalence of Covid-19 in the UK was at a record high, with an estimated 4.9 million infections in the week to March 26.