Covid cases up 18% in UK as Omicron BA4 and BA5 drive infections to highest level since April

The Omicron subvariants of Covid are continuing to drive infections

Covid infections have jumped by 18% in the UK as the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants continue to drive cases.

This is up 18% from the 2.3 million cases in the previous week, marking the highest estimate for total infections since late April.

However, infection levels are still below the record high of 4.9 million which was reached at the end of March.

Covid infections have jumped by 18% in the UK (Photo: Getty Images)Covid infections have jumped by 18% in the UK (Photo: Getty Images)
Covid infections have jumped by 18% in the UK (Photo: Getty Images)

Where are infections rising?

The virus continues to be most prevalent in Scotland, where 312,800 people were estimated to have had the virus in the week to 30 June, or around one in 17.

This is up from 288,200, or one in 18, and is the highest estimate for Scotland since early April.

But infections in Scotland have increased at a slower rate compared to other UK nations, the ONS said.

In England, 2.2 million people were estimated to have had Covid last week, the equivalent of around one in 25. This is up from 1.8 million, or one in 30, the previous week.

Wales has seen infections rise to 149,700, or one in 20 people, up from 106,000, or one in 30, while in Northern Ireland, infections have increased to an estimated 98,400 people, or one in 19, up from 71,000, or one in 25.

Figures show the percentage of people testing positive for Covid has continued to increase in all age groups and regions in England.

Prevalence of the virus is estimated to be highest among 25 to 34-year-olds and 50 to 69-year-olds, where 4.7% (one in 20) were likely to have had the virus last week.

The next highest estimate was for people from school year 12 to age 24, at 4.6%.

Together, the BA.4 and BA.5 variants now make up more than half of new Covid cases in England and are thought to be the most dominant strains in much of the UK.

The variants were recently classified by the UK Health Security Agency as “variants of concern” and analysis has found that both strains were likely to have a “growth advantage” over BA..

They also have a degree of “immune escape”, meaning the immune system can no longer recognise or fight a virus, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Health experts said that while there is “currently no evidence” that BA.4 and BA.5 lead to more serious symptoms than previous variants, nearly one in six people aged 75 and over have not received a booster dose of vaccine in the past six months, putting them more at risk of severe disease.

Professor Susan Hopkins, UKHSA chief medical adviser, said: “It is clear that the increasing prevalence of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 are significantly increasing the case numbers we have observed in recent weeks.

“We have seen a rise in hospital admissions in line with community infections but vaccinations are continuing to keep ICU admissions and deaths at low levels.

“As prevalence increases, it’s more important than ever that we all remain alert, take precautions, and ensure that we’re up to date with Covid-19 vaccinations, which remain our best form of defence against the virus.”