Covid infections levels rise across UK as Scotland hits record high

Cases are on the up. Credit: PA

Covid infections have risen in all four nations of the UK, with levels in Scotland hitting a record high, new figures show.

It is the first time since January that all nations have seen a week-on-week increase in infections, and is the clearest indication yet that the virus is once again becoming more prevalent.

Around one in 25 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to March 5, or 2.1 million people, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is up from one in 30, or 1.9 million people, in the previous week, and comes after three successive weeks where infections in England were estimated to have fallen.

By contrast Scotland has now seen infection levels rise for six weeks in a row, with 299,900 people likely to have had coronavirus last week, the equivalent of one in 18.

This is the highest figure for Scotland since estimates began in autumn 2020, according to analysis by the PA news agency.

The previous record was 297,400 people in the first week of the year.

Wales and Northern Ireland both saw a jump in prevalence last week following a period of falling infections, with the estimate for Wales up from 94,200 people to 97,900, one in 30, and Northern Ireland up from 106,300 people to 143,800, one in 13.

Credit: ITV News

Across the UK as a whole, 2.6 million people were estimated to have coronavirus last week, up from 2.4 million.

The number stood at 4.3 million at the start of the year.

The ONS infection survey is the most reliable measure of the prevalence of coronavirus in the UK, and its latest findings provide the clearest indication so far that the broad downwards trend in infections since January has come to a halt.

Estimates for the next few weeks will confirm whether a new upward trend in infections is now under way.

Meanwhile, hospital admissions rates have increased among all age groups, but are highest among over-85s, at 118.8 per 100,000 people, up week-on-week from 88.8.

Earlier this week, Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), warned the pandemic is not over as she pointed to rising cases in older age groups.

While data published in the React study from Imperial College London indicated cases have fallen substantially since the peak of the Omicron wave in January, it said infections in England are rising among those aged 55 and older.

The latest Covid study has found a rise in cases of a new Omicron variant with fears it could lead to a surge in cases in the UK.

The sub-lineage of Omicron dubbed "stealth Omicron" was designated a "variant under investigation" (VUI) after a rise in the number of Covid-positive cases showing the sequences by the UK health agency in February.

As of 24 January 2022 - the last available data figures - 1,072 genomically confirmed cases of BA.2 have been identified in England, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).