Covid cases rise in England for first time since July after kids return to school - how each region compares
Some English regions have seen a sharper rise in Covid infections in the last week than others, as cases rise following sustained falls since July.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that 766,500 people, or 1.4% of the population, had coronavirus in the week ending 14 September.
That was up from 705,800 (1.3%) in the previous week, a rise of 10%. It was the first weekly increase since the week ending 13 July. On 14 September alone, researchers estimated 803,300 people (1.5%) were infected.
The ONS data is based on random PCR sampling of private households across the UK (excluding care homes and other communal homes) so has not been affected by the end of mass testing in the UK.
Despite the rise in infections in the latest week, the number of estimated cases across the seven days is still at the second lowest level it has been all year.
Cases also rose in Wales (1.3% infected in week to 14 September), again for the first time since the start of July, but continued to fall in Scotland and Northern Ireland (1.9% and 1.3% positive in week to 13 September respectively).
Separate regional figures for England, which show daily infections rather than weekly averages, reveal a mixed picture across the country, with some regions seeing sharp rises in cases.
In the West Midlands, 106,300 people (1.8%) were thought to have Covid on 14 September, up by more than a quarter (26%) compared to 7 September.
There were also sharp rises in Yorkshire and the Humber (up 24%), London (22%) and the North East (15%). But infections were down in the South East and South West by 5% and 14% respectively.
Covid infection rates were highest in the West Midlands, where 1.8% of people were estimated to be infected at the last count – approximately one in every 55 people. That was almost 50% higher than in the South East and South West, where 1.2% of people were infected.
There are no local breakdowns available for Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
What is causing the rise in Covid cases?
The ONS said there was a rise in the percentage of children aged between year 7 and year 11 infected in the latest week, as well as among those aged 25 to 34. The trend for other age groups was less certain.
School children returned to classrooms in England in early September – an event that has led to a surge in infections in previous years of the pandemic. The ONS said while it is too early to see if the upwards trend will continue, it will “monitor the data closely to see any impact of the return of schools over the coming weeks”.
What is happening with Covid booster jabs?
An Autumn Covid booster jab rollout began this month across England, with NHS England prioritising care home residents and vulnerable people who are housebound.
Jabs are also being offered to people the most susceptible to serious illness and people aged 75 and over, who could begin to book appointments in the week beginning 12 September.
“When the time comes, I would strongly encourage anyone who is invited to take up both an autumn booster and flu jab, to do so as quickly as possible – it will give you maximum protection this winter,” said NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard.