COVID at record levels in U.K. with almost 5 million infected
The prevalence of COVID-19 in the U.K. has reached record levels, with about 1 in 13 people estimated to be infected with the virus in the last week, the latest figures from Britain’s official statistics agency showed.
Some 4.9 million people were estimated to have the coronavirus in the week ending March 26, up from 4.3 million recorded in the previous week, the Office for National Statistics said Friday. The latest surge is driven by the more transmissible Omicron variant BA.2, which is the dominant variant across the United Kingdom.
Hospitalizations and death rates are again rising, although the number of people dying with COVID-19 is still relatively low compared with earlier this year.
Nonetheless, the latest estimates suggest that the steep climb in new infections since late February, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson scrapped all remaining coronavirus restrictions in England, continued well into March.
The figures came on the day the government ended free rapid virus tests for most people in England under Johnson’s “living with COVID” plan.
People who do not have health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus now must pay for tests to find out if they are infected.
“The government’s ‘living with COVID’ strategy of removing any mitigations, isolation, free testing and a considerable slice of our surveillance amounts to nothing more than ignoring this virus going forward,” said Stephen Griffin, associate professor at the University of Leeds medical school.
Hong Kong is running short of traditional coffins for COVID-19 victims, so it’s turning to alternatives.
“Such unchecked prevalence endangers the protection afforded by our vaccines,” he said. “Our vaccines are excellent, but they are not silver bullets and ought not to be left to bear the brunt of COVID in isolation.”
More than 67% of Britons 12 and older have had their booster or third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Starting Saturday, parents can also book a low-dose vaccine for children 5 to 12 in England.
James Naismith, a biology professor at the University of Oxford, said he believed that, except for those completely shielded or not susceptible to the virus, most people in the country would probably be infected with the BA.2 variant by summer.
“This is literally living with the virus by being infected with it,” he said.
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