Covid: More than 90% of community cases in England are of the Omicron variant, UKHSA says

Shoppers wearing face masks walk through Birmingham city centre. Credit: PA

More than 90% of all community coronavirus cases in England are of the Omicron variant, official figures have shown as Covid infection levels soar.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) published the figures on Wednesday afternoon and said there are now 210,122 cases of the highly infectious Omicron variant across the UK after an additional 32,923 were detected.

It came as NHS England data showed there were 1,751 Covid-19 hospital admissions in England on December 27, up 65% week-on-week.

Figures also indicated that 10,462 people were in hospital in England with Covid as of 8am on December 29, up 48% from a week before and the highest number recorded since March 1.

As the strain is now the most dominant variant in the country, the UKHSA said that it would stop providing Omicron-specific daily updates from December 31.

Scotland had already stopped reporting Omicron cases separately from other Covid cases in daily reports.

The nation has reported a record-high 15,849 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, up4,819 from the previous record reported on Boxing Day.

On Wednesday, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliament that the expected wave of Omicron infections is now rapidly developing, as she warned a further steep rise in cases is expected for the days and possibly weeks ahead.

While the new variant is highly transmissible, UKHSA data has indicated that people infected with the Omicron variant are up to 70% less likely to be hospitalised than those with the Delta variant.

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Ms Sturgeon said the test positivity rate is 28.9%, with Omicron now accounting for around 80% of cases, with overall infections having risen by 47% in the past week.

Despite the new records being set, Ms Sturgeon has announced no further restrictions at this stage because coronavirus cases in the nation's hospitals have “remained broadly stable”.

New rules on social gatherings came in within Scotland on Monday, with meetings limited to three households at indoor and outdoor venues like bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms.

The more stringent curbs came a day before the UK recorded its highest ever number of confirmed daily Covid-19 cases.

A further 129,471 lab-confirmed cases were recorded in the UK on Tuesday, breaking the previous record of 122,186 cases reported on Christmas Eve.

But despite the soaring figures, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there will be no new restrictions before the new year in England, in contrast to tighter curbs in place for the devolved administrations.

Instead, Boris Johnson urged people to celebrate New Year in a "cautious and sensible way" in the face of criticism of the decision not to impose any new curbs by some scientists.

The prime minister has urged anyone eligible to get their third dose after revealing that up to 90% of coronavirus patients in intensive care have not had a Covid-19 booster vaccine.