Just weeks since party-goer Boris Johnson tried to con the nation (again) by making out that covid was somehow “over”, and started removing all government restrictions on mask-wearing and dropping the need for people to self-isolate if testing positive, and so infection rates across the country are soaring, with an additional 1million coronavirus cases reported across the country in the last week.
Official data from the Office for National Statistics show the number of covid-19 infections rose to 4.26million in the seven days to March 19 – up 29.7per cent on the week before.
This is just short of the 4.3million in the first week of 2022, which was the highest total since estimates began.
The sharp rise in infections is due to the Omicron BA.2 variant, a more transmissible form of Omicron.
The pattern of rapidly increasing infection rates is also seen in figures for Croydon, where for the last seven-day period 2,538 positive cases were reported – up 22per cent on the previous week.
The rolling seven-day totals for Croydon up to March 19 show between 2,400 and 2,500 new infections – at the end of February, before the government decided it was safe to remove restrictions, the infection rate in this borough was near 1,000 per week.
This past week saw covid claim the life of the 1,200th victim in Croydon since the beginning of the pandemic.
Positive cases of coronavirus are close to record levels across England, while they have reached an all-time high in both Scotland and Wales.
The “R rate”, the reproduction ratio which we were advised at the beginning of lockdown had to be kept to less than 1, is now between 1.1 and 1.4, the UK Health Security Agency said.
Earlier this week, Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, warned that the NHS is coming under “significant” pressure amid the rise in covid cases, with hospitalisations likely to continue increasing at least until April.
Prof Whitty said that the sharp resurgence of underlined that the crisis “is not over”.
Speaking at the annual conference of the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Public Health, Prof Whitty also said those hoping for an “end point” should not expect one, with coronavirus likely to remain a threat to public health for decades.
The disease is rising in every age group – bad news for parents who will have to take more time off to look after their children, and for employers who will see a rise in staff absence.
Data from the UK Health Security Agency also shows hospital admissions in the over 75s are now higher than they were at the peak of the Omicron wave at the start of the year. Such data is likely to reinforce a drive for “spring boosters”, a fifth round of covid jabs, starting with the over-70s and those with special vulnerabilities.
The data being collected now may be underestimating the infection rates, since the government has removed the requirement for people to self-test and report the results.
Indeed, from next week they will be removing free testing availability, even for NHS staff working in hospitals trying to treat patients with the virus.
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