UK Covid infections remain at record levels but could have peaked in some parts

A testing solution dripping into a Covid 19 lateral flow testing strip Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Covid-19 infections in most of the UK remain near or at record levels, but may be nearing their peak in some areas, new figures show.

Only Scotland has seen a drop in numbers, but there are "early signs" that they may no longer be increasing in some parts of the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Some 4.88 million people in private households in the UK are estimated to have had the virus last week, down very slightly from a record 4.91 million in the previous week.

In England, around one in 13 people were likely to test positive for Covid-19 in the week to April 2, or 4.1 million people – unchanged from the week to March 26.

The ONS said the percentage of people testing positive in England has increased among those from school year 12 to age 34, and for people aged 70 and over.

Infection levels have fallen for children from age two to school year six and adults aged between 35 to 49.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Meanwhile, in Wales, the estimate is up from one in 14 people to one in 13.

Both England and Wales are continuing to see record infection levels.

In Scotland, 396,800 people were estimated to have had the virus last week, or around one in 13, down from one in 12 the previous week.

And in Northern Ireland, the ONS described the trend as “uncertain”, with one in 16 people infected – down from one in 15.

The latest ONS figures suggest that just one in eight people newly infected with Covid-19 are currently being included in the government total.

Sarah Crofts, head of analytical outputs for the ONS Covid survey, said: “While infections remain high, there are early signs in our latest data that they may no longer be increasing in some parts of the UK.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

“Across English regions, there is a mixed picture in trends and we have seen a welcome decrease in Scotland.

“However, rates in Wales continue to rise and the trend in Northern Ireland is uncertain.

“It is too early to say if infections have peaked in England and Scotland. We will continue to monitor the data closely.”

Professor Kevin McConway of the Open University said the latest figures confirmed there is “still a very high rate” of people testing positive, despite a “mixed picture across the four UK countries”.

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He added: “The seven-day trends in hospital admissions and in deaths are upward. Numbers of people reporting long Covid are up too.

“Apart from those serious consequences, there are many reports of disruptions simply because many people are away from work due to illness. Most of them will recover before too long, and, I hope, won’t have long-term consequences.

“But all this sickness can’t be good for the economy. Learning to live with Covid doesn’t mean paying no attention to it.”

The ONS infection survey is the most reliable measure of the prevalence of Covid-19 in the UK.

It uses a representative sample of swab tests collected regularly from tens of thousands of households, and is therefore able to estimate the percentage of people likely to test positive for Covid-19 at any one point in time, regardless of when they caught the virus, how many times they have had it and whether they have symptoms.

The survey is far more representative of the level of Covid-19 in the UK than the number of cases announced each day by the government, which includes only those people who have reported themselves as testing positive for the virus, and is therefore affected by how many people are able to take a test or know they have coronavirus symptoms.