The next wave of Covid in England has officially begun, leading experts declared today as two months of falling cases were brought to an end.
Government statisticians tasked with tracking the outbreak estimate that 766,500 people were infected on any given day last week, up 8.6 percent from the previous weekly number.
It marks the first surge in infections since mid-July, when the summer wave peaked and ministers faced calls to reinstate pandemic-era restrictions.
Covid hospital admissions are also on the rise, putting pressure on overwhelmed NHS facilities ahead of what is feared will be another disastrous winter for the crisis-hit health service.
Public health chiefs have warned rates will skyrocket as colder weather approaches and the country spends more time indoors, where the virus spreads more easily.
Experts believe the rise is likely due to the back-to-school effect, as well as Britons returning from summer break.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline: “We know that traveling abroad is a big risk factor – we saw infections start to rise last year before schools returned. “. They are people who contract the virus and bring it with them on vacation in this country and abroad.
“And decreased immunity is probably playing a role because the most recent data suggests that boosters only really protect against infection for about three months.”
Government statisticians tasked with tracking the outbreak estimate that 766,500 people were infected on any given day last week, up 8.6 percent from the previous weekly number. It marks the first surge in infections since mid-July, when the summer wave peaked and ministers faced calls to reinstate pandemic-era restrictions.
Dr. Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency, said rates were “still low” but there was clearly an uptick.
She said: ‘For those eligible, now is the time to get your autumn booster. Getting a booster will give your immune system time to build up its protection against serious Covid illness as we head into winter.
“As it gets colder and we get closer to winter, we will start to see an increase in respiratory infections, please try to stay home if you feel unwell and avoid contact with vulnerable people.”
The weekly estimates released by the ONS, which are closely monitored by the Government, are seen as the most accurate way of tracking the shape of the outbreak in the UK.
Unlike the number of reported infections, which has been highly imprecise since the mass testing scheme closed in April, it is not dependent on Britons testing themselves and reporting the result.
Cases also increased in Wales (prevalence of 39,700, 40.8% more). However, they fell in Scotland (98,800, 13.0% less) and Northern Ireland (22,900, 32.0% less).
A THIRD of NHS capacity is occupied by bed blockers in the most active trusts
Up to a third of beds in England’s busiest NHS trusts are occupied by patients who shouldn’t be there, according to a startling analysis by MailOnline that lays bare the scale of the country’s ‘devastating’ bed lockdown backlog.
More than 13,000 hospital beds across the country, or one in seven, are currently occupied with patients declared fit for discharge by doctors.
But rates soar to as high as one in three in the hardest-hit hospitals, which are in Bristol and Coventry, as well as parts of Lancashire and Norfolk.
Experts say the numbers are being driven by a separate crisis in social care, which leaves medically fit patients languishing on wards for up to nine months because there is no adequate nursing accommodation or care available for them in the community. .
Newly appointed Health Secretary Therese Coffey has already vowed to end the scandal, which has ballooned to record levels and is believed to cost taxpayers an estimated £2bn a year.
This will help avoid deadly ambulance delays by preventing paramedics from queuing outside A&E waiting for a bed to become available. It will also boost efforts to address the Covid-induced backlog of care, by freeing up space to allow more patients in.
In an effort to prevent a collapse of the NHS this winter, Dr Coffey revealed yesterday that she would be giving the crippled social care sector £500m of emergency funding.
The figures, which reflect the week ending September 14, are based on samples of thousands of people.
Sarah Crofts, deputy director of the ONS Covid Infection Survey, said: “Today’s data shows a mixed picture across the UK, with increases in England and Wales, while infections in Scotland and Northern Ireland have decreased.”
“It is too early to see if these changing trends will continue, and we will be monitoring the data closely for any impact from the return of schools in the coming weeks.”
The most up-to-date statistics from England’s NHS show that Covid pressures are also increasing in hospitals, mirroring the rise in the community.
Some 781 virus-related admissions were recorded on September 19, an increase of about 17 percent from the previous week.
Yet the death toll is only a fraction of the levels seen during the darkest days of the pandemic, when more than 4,000 new patients needed NHS care every day.
Also, not all of these patients require treatment for the virus.
Only a third of infected patients occupying NHS beds are primarily ill with Covid, with the rest testing positive incidentally and receiving care for other conditions, such as a broken leg or heart disease.
And the number of patients receiving direct treatment for covid is about one-eighth that of so-called bed blockers.
But the virus appears to be spreading rapidly in NHS wards. Likely hospital-acquired infections have risen by nearly 50 percent to 1,133 in England in the past week, analysts believe.
Although Covid pressures are expected to mount in the coming weeks, Liz Truss’s government is unlikely to reapply restrictions after her former boss, Boris Johnson, chose the “living with Covid” approach.
Under the plan designed to free Britain from its shackles of Covid in a post-lockdown world, mandatory isolation rules, free testing and guidance to work from home have been scrapped.
Instead, ministers put their trust in vaccines, which have dramatically mitigated the threat of the virus over time, transforming it into something more like the flu, a seasonal virus the country lives with every year.
This month saw the official launch of the Fall Covid Booster Program, which is now open to seniors 65+, caregivers and pregnant women.
Some 26 million people in the UK will be offered their booster top-up in the coming months.