Top Covid symptoms affecting people right now as UK infections hit highest level since summer

Experts warn the current Covid wave could prove to be one of the biggest the UK has seen

Covid infections in the UK have jumped to their highest level since the summer as experts warn the current wave could be the biggest the country has seen.

Infections peaked at 4.3 million last winter during the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid, but this was topped a few months later during the wave caused by the Omicron BA.2/3 subvariants, when infections reached a record 4.9 million.

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows almost three million people are estimated to have had the virus in the week to 28 December 2022. This is more than double the number at the start of the month and the highest total since mid-July.

Figures show that around one in 20 people in England are likely to have had coronavirus over the Christmas period, along with one in 18 in Wales and one in 16 in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the prevalence of the virus is slightly lower at one in 25 people, the ONS said.

It comes as the UK is facing its worst flu season for a decade and ambulance handover delays at hospitals are at a record high.

The surge in Covid infections has not been linked to a specific new variant, but is instead thought to be due to an increased amount of social mixing and airborne transmission, particularly during the cold weather when more people are likely to be indoors.

Although experts have warned that a new subvariant of Omicron - named XBB.1.5 - could be “one to watch this year” after becoming dominant in parts of the US. The strain has been detected in at least 29 countries, but is so far responsible for fewer than 5% of infections in the UK.

Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at Nottingham University, said there is “no evidence” that XBB.1.5 is more dangerous than other variants, adding: “It might be able to escape antibodies, but that’s not the only immunity we have. Our immune system is used to adapting to viruses.

“We’d better get used to the emergence of new variants, at least for the foreseeable future. Yes, they will lead to new waves of infection, but vaccination is still proving to be a very effective weapon to protect the most vulnerable from serious disease.”

Covid can cause various symptoms that are very similar to those caused by a cold or flu, which can make the virus hard to detect, so health experts advise taking a lateral flow test to be sure. If you feel unwell and fear you may have coronavirus, these are the top 10 most common symptoms of the virus affecting people right now, according to recent data from the ZOE Health Study.

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