Are we facing a new Covid wave and is the NHS under pressure?

Recent data suggests rates have risen by 25% in the last seven days, as Health Editor Emily Morgan

Covid infections, hospitalisations and bed occupancy have all seen a large uptick in recent weeks, so are we on the verge of a new wave?

For many, the cycles of lockdown and social restrictions are a thing of the past, even the World Health Organization (WHO) said last month the end of the pandemic was "in sight."

But we are still in a pandemic and, for many vulnerable people, long Covid sufferers and health workers it is still very present.

Should we be worried about the recent uptick in Covid infections?

What does the data say?

On Friday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Covid-19 infections have increased in England and Northern Ireland but the trend is uncertain in Scotland.

This was the third consecutive increase in England.

The rise means the total number of people in private households in the UK testing positive for coronavirus stood at 1.3 million in the week ending September 26, up 25% from 1.1 million in the previous week.

It is the highest UK-wide total since the week of August 16 but is still some way below the 3.8 million weekly infections in early July, at the peak of the wave caused by the Omicron BA.4/BA.5 subvariants of the virus.

The ONS also noted there had been a "marked" increase in infection among the over 70s.

The highest-ever figure was 4.9 million recorded at the end of March.

So comparatively based on infection estimates case numbers are still small.

But hospitalisation numbers have shot up in recent weeks, particularly in England.

Hospital admissions over a seven-day average in England were up to 1,129 for the week ending on 30 September.

This was up from 574 two weeks before, and up 33% from the week before.

The number of people in hospital beds in England with Covid is up 87% in the past two weeks.

Dr Susan Hopkins said there had been a "concerning" increase in Covid hospitalisations. Credit: PA

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said the latest increases were "concerning", and that cases and hospitalisation rates were at their "highest level in months."

The last time figures were this high was in the middle of July.

What about long Covid?The ONS also released figures on long Covid figures earlier this week showing that 3.5% of the population are still suffering from the impact of an infection they caught more than a month prior.

More than a million people reported they are suffering from long Covid when their initial infection was more than a year ago.

The ONS estimated long Covid was impacting the daily lives of 1.6 million people, with 342,000 saying their ability to undertake day-to-day activities has been "limited a lot."

What are the most up-to-date Covid symptoms?

Throughout the pandemic, various studies noted different variants of the disease caused different symptoms.

The dominant strain of Covid is still the Omnicron variant, which has different symptoms to Delta.

According to the ZOE Symptom Study the top five most common Omnicron symptoms were:

  • runny nose

  • headache

  • fatigue (mild or severe)

  • sneezing

  • sore throat

According to the ONS, around 39% of people do not have any symptoms at all, which is just below the average since the start of the pandemic.

The ONS said a cough, fatigue, headache, sore throat and muscle pain were the most common symptoms.

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