More than 3million people had Covid on New Years Eve in England — the equivalent of one in 15 — the country’s gold-standard surveillance study has found.
According to the Office for National Statistics, a record 3.27 million people had been infected in the week ending December 31. This is more than 60% higher than the previous week.
Before the emergence of Omicron, that figure rarely rose above 1million, but the ultra-infectious variant has pushed the country’s infection rate to astronomical levels.
However, the super-mild strain caused a wide disparity in cases, hospitalisations, and deaths. Admissions are still at a third of their previous peak levels, and the number of fatalities is 10 times higher.
One in 10 Londoners was estimated to have Covid on New Year’s Eve. However, they said that there are ‘early warning signs’ of infection in London. This capital has been the hardest hit by the fourth wave.
Because it relies on random sampling from around 100,000 individuals rather than people actually coming forward for testing, the ONS weekly infection survey has been deemed the best indicator of an outbreak.
The report — relied on by ministers to guide Covid policy — is normally published on Fridays, but its release has been moved forward to Wednesdays while infections run at unprecedented levels.
Today’s findings show that around one in 20 people had the virus by New Year’s Eve in Wales and Scotland, both up from one in 40. The prevalence rate in Northern Ireland has increased from 1 in 40 to 1 in 25.
Sarah Crofts is the chief ONS analyst. She stated that Omicron has become the most prevalent variant in all four countries.
“There is evidence of some early signs that there may be a slowing down of infection in London before the New Year’s Eve. But it’s too soon to conclude that there has been a shift in the overall trend. Data is constantly changing rapidly and we will monitor closely the situation.