Official data today revealed that over one million people in England were infected in the week prior to half-term. This was revealed by health chiefs who urged students to have their blood tested before they return to class.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 1.1million — around one in 50 — people had the virus on any given day in the week ending October 22. 

Since January 9, when infection rates were at 1.13 million, during the worst days of the Covid crisis, they have been lower. 

Cases rose 12.8 per cent on last week’s figure of 977,900 — the fifth week in a row infections increased.

Sajid Javid, Health Secretary, today asked all secondary school and college students for testing regardless of symptoms to be tested before they return to classes next week.

Ministers hope high case levels can be suppressed by preventing school-age children — who have the highest case rates in the country — mixing while infected.

Despite official Government data showing that cases declined yesterday for the fifth consecutive day, these data are still available. 

‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist who sits on SAGE, said Plan B — which would see the return of face masks and work from home guidance if the NHS becomes overwhelmed — ‘shouldn’t be necessary’ if cases keep dropping.

Experts today said the ONS figures — which are a week behind the official daily count — will not be able to reflect the drop-off for another week.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 1.1million — around one in 50 — people had the virus on any given day in the week ending October 22

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 1.1million — around one in 50 — people had the virus on any given day in the week ending October 22

The ONS said rates have increased in all age groups except for those from school year 12 to age 24 and for those aged 25 to 34, where the trend was uncertain

The ONS stated that rates have increased in all age categories except those aged 12-24 and 25-34, where the trend was not clear.

The percentage of people testing positive for Covid is estimated to have increased in all regions of England except north-east England, north-west England and Yorkshire and the Humber, where the trend was uncertain

The percentage of people testing positive to Covid is increasing in all regions of England with the exception of north-east England, northwest England, Yorkshire and Humber, where the trend is uncertain

Data shows that less then 20% of England’s 12-15 year-olds have had their first Covid vaccination. 

England’s Covid vaccine drive for children is going even slower than thought, according to official data that has prompted calls for the NHS to speed up the roll out over fears it could leave No10 with no option but to resort to Plan B.

Only 19.3% of 12-15 year-olds have volunteered for their first jab, according to Government dashboard figures. This despite the fact that the entire group is eligible since September 20.

Children’s roll-out has been plagued by delays and cancellations. Critics also complained that the decision to allow only children to get jabbed in schools hindered the process. Uptake rates were always expected to be lower in children — who face a tiny risk from Covid and a higher risk of complications from the jab. 

NHS England insists that all children have been invited to their first jab. They also reiterated that they can book online after Whitehall documents revealed that half of the group has yet to be offered a jab.

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday urged ministers to ‘turbo-charge’ the roll out to avoid another rebound in Covid cases which could force ministers to impose Plan B — bringing back face masks and work from home guidance.

It comes after the US took a step closer this week to jabbing children as young at five years old. Experts immediately urged Britain to not ‘blindly follow’.


Professor Paul Hunter (UAE) is an infectious disease expert. He said that the prevalence of infection has increased in the week to date. However, this report only covers the period of October 16-23 so it is too early to determine if the drop in daily reported cases in recent days represents a decline in infections. 

‘If the infections are actually falling in line the daily reports on DHSC Dashboard then we would see any impact on the ONS dataset next Friday. 

The ONS estimates that around one in forty people in Wales had Covid during the week ending October 22, an increase of one in 45 in the previous week. This is the highest estimate since July 2020.

In Northern Ireland, the latest estimate shows that the current number is approximately one in 75. This is an increase from one in 130 the week prior, but still below the record of one in 40 in August.

The latest estimate for Scotland is one in 75. This is up from one to 90 the week before, but below September’s peak at one in 45. All figures are for private households. 

The percentage of people who have tested positive for Covid is increasing in all regions of England. This excludes north-east England, northwest England and Yorkshire and Humber, where the trend is uncertain.

Around one in forty people in south-west England were likely to test positive during the week ending October 22. This was the highest percentage for any region. London was home to the lowest proportion at one in 65. 

Jim Naismith is the director of the Rosalind Franklin University Institute. He stated: “The ONS data can be very valuable, they provide the best measure of the infection. 

“Proportion has risen to around 1 in 50 people in England since the 22nd of October, from 1 per 55.

“Based on the experience in Scotland, where 1 in 45 was reached some weeks ago, I would expect that the prevalence in England has peaked or close to it.

“I would like to point out that London has a lower prevalence. An increase in the national average could have the potential to raise case numbers.

“If England has peaked then other numbers will begin to fall.” I hope so. 1000 people per day end up in hospital, and 1000 people per week die. We are running very hot.

This release contains some less positive news, even though Scotland has clearly mapped out the route that England will take. After several weeks of declining prevalence, the prevalence rate in Scotland has stabilized and may have slightly increased at 1 in 75. This is something to be closely monitored, as it may indicate that there may be another peak.

England's Covid vaccine drive for children is going even more slowly than first thought. An update to official figures on the dashboard revised down the proportion of 12 to 15-year-olds (purple line) that had been inoculated from 22 to 19 per cent

The Covid vaccine drive in England for children is moving slower than expected. Updated official dashboard figures have reduced the percentage of children aged 12-15 (purple line), who were previously inoculated from 22% to 19%.

The above graph shows the proportion of 12 to 15-year-olds who have got the Covid vaccine in England and Scotland. Scotland's drive has likely surged ahead because children have been able to get their jabs in clinics when the drive began. In England children were only able to get jabs at centres from this week

The graph below shows the Covid vaccination rate in England and Scotland for children between 12 and 15. Because children were able to get their vaccines in clinics since the start of the drive, Scotland’s drive is likely to have surged. Children in England were only able get their jabs at centres starting this week.

Covid vaccines work just as well against more transmissible Delta offshoots, early tests show. 

Health chiefs claim that Covid vaccines seem to work as well against the more transmissible Delta variant offshoots as they do against its ancestor.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has released a report that shows jabs are effective in stopping people with AY.4.2 from getting symptoms.

Two doses are thought, for comparison, to block approximately 83% of those who fall ill with the original strain. 

UKHSA stated that the preliminary results ‘not indicate a significant decrease in vaccine effectiveness forAY.4.2compared to Delta’, and admitted that the slight drop could be due to chance.

Nearly 24,000 cases have been identified in Britain. The true number could be as high as 10 times, however, because only a small fraction of confirmed samples are being sequenced by laboratories.

Separate surveillance data shows the variant has now been found in all but a dozen parts of England and makes up one in ten new cases — with its proportion having doubled in the space of a month. 

Although statistics show it is still outcompeting its ancestor’s strain, experts are now questioning whether the subtype is actually more transmissible than Delta. Initial estimates by scientists indicated that the strain was 10 to 15% more infectious. 

Figures show that while the number of cases of the mutant strain is increasing, its curve flattens. It is growing slower that its predecessor, which was sequenced at the same time, at this point. 

The ONS reported that rates have increased in all age categories, except for those between 12 and 24 years old and those between 25 and 34 years of age, where the trend was not clear.

The highest percentage of positive tests is still found in school years 7-11, at 9.1 percent.

Ministers are now urging students to be tested before returning to class next week in an effort suppressing cases as the country enters winter months. 

Sajid Javid, Health Secretary, said that students should be able to take quick tests to detect Covid infections. 

“Vaccines are an important defense in our armoury, along with testing. 

“We’ve already seen tens to thousands of people between 12 and 17 book in for their Covid vaccinations over half-term at a local vaccine site to get protection before winter, with more children expected next week to come forward for vaccines.

And Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said it is vital children carry on testing and getting vaccines in order ‘make sure we can enjoy’ Christmas.

He said: ‘As we start the countdown to Christmas, testing regularly and getting vaccinated is the best thing we can all do to protect education and make sure we can enjoy the best of the season — whether that’s the school nativity or the family gathering over the holidays.

“That’s why i want to encourage every student in secondary school or college take a test before you go back to class next week.

“We have made so much progress in our fight against the virus, and now every test and every shot adds another brick to our wall.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: ‘We should commend and thank young people for taking these regular tests, which are such a vital part of our defences against Covid, alongside vaccination and other behaviours which help keep us all safe – such as keeping areas well ventilated and keeping a distance from each other, particularly where spaces are crowded. 

“Many of you will have home tests so please use them before ordering new ones. Also, make sure to report the results. 

“Today I am asking children to help each other and get tested before they return to the classroom. This will allow us to stop the infection in its tracks, keep as many children in school, continue their education, and ensure that their futures are secure. 

“I want again to thank all our teachers, and those who work at schools, who are so dedicated to keeping children safe.