Covid infection rates in UK approaching record highs, data show

covid infection rates in the UK are approaching record high levels, new data shows, and are set to rise further this week as the festival season fuels the spread of the virus.

An average of 285,507 people are being infected with the virus each day, according to the latest incidence figures from ZOE Covid Study — an increase of 27 per cent from last week.

Professor Tim Spector, the lead scientist behind the research, said daily cases could soon exceed the 300,000 mark, “bringing us to levels seen during the height of the pandemic for the UK.” A record 350,000 daily infections were reported in late March 2020.

According to the study, one in 21 people in the UK now have Covid.

Prof Spector said the surge in cases is being driven by the BA.5 Omicron sub-variant, which is becoming increasingly dominant in the UK.

“This variant is particularly good at immune escape, causing an increase in reinfections in people in spite of vaccines and natural immunity, particularly over the past few weeks,” he added.

“With the large numbers of festivals happening, I predict rates will continue to rise for the next week or so.”

There have been widespread reports of Glastonbury attendees testing positive for Covid following the festival last weekend.

According to the latest UK-wide data, published on Thursday, the highest number of cases are among under-18s, with 550 infections per 100,000 people.

The 18-34 and 35-54 age groups have also seen a steady increase over the last month, with both recording more than 400 cases per 100.00.

The over-75s and 55-74 age groups are reporting just over 200 and 330 cases per 100,000, respectively.

Prof Spector said: “The only good news is that the symptoms are still mild with fewer deaths than in other earlier waves, though worryingly the number of hospitalizations is rapidly increasing.”

The number of people being admitted to hospital both with and because of Covid is rising in all regions, the latest figures show, while BA.5 is outcompeting BA.4 and BA.2.12.1 — two other Omicron sub-variants of concern.

Prof Spector said the study’s app-based data is “reassuringly in line with the ONS survey last week — but their results are lagging behind ours by up to a week.”

Last Friday, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that 1,739,700 had Covid in the week to 17 June. Its latest dataset, to be published on Friday, is expected to show an increase on this.

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