Stealth Omicron variant driving spike in Covid infections across the UK

ONS figures revealed 3.3 million people were estimated to have coronavirus last week, up from 2.6 million in the previous week

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Covid-19 infections are continuing to rise across most of the UK, with levels in Scotland hitting another record high, new figures show.

In England and Wales the virus is now circulating at levels last seen at the start of February, though the trend in Northern Ireland is “uncertain” with infections likely to have fallen slightly.

Across the UK as a whole, 3.3 million people were estimated to have coronavirus last week, up from 2.6 million the previous week, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

File photo dated 20/11/21 of a vial of Covid-19 vaccine.
File photo dated 20/11/21 of a vial of Covid-19 vaccine.

This is still some way below levels at the start of the year, when 4.3 million people were likely to have had the virus.

The sub-variant, BA.2, also known as Stealth Omicron, is believed to be the cause of most of the infections.

Professor James Naismith of the University of Oxford fears anyone could now catch the new variant after the loosening of restrictions.

He said: "My main concern is for the vulnerable for whom this disease is serious.

"Every effort must be made to triple vaccinate as many people as possible, quadruple vaccinate the most vulnerable."

It is further evidence that Covid-19 is becoming more prevalent across most of the country, and comes as the number of people in hospital with the virus is rising.

Around one in 20 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to March 12, or 2.7 million people, the ONS said.

This is up from one in 25, or 2.1 million people, in the previous week and is the second week in a row that infections are estimated to have increased.

Wales has also seen its second successive jump in infections, with the figure up from 97,900 people, or one in 30, to 125,400, or one in 25.

In Scotland infections have now risen for seven weeks in a row and have reached another record high, with 376,300 people likely to have had Covid-19 last week, or one in 14. This is up from 299,900 people, or one in 18, the previous week.

But in Northern Ireland the ONS described the trend as “uncertain”, with the number down slightly from 143,800 people, or around one in 13, to 130,600, or one in 14.