Omicron: One in 10 people infected with Covid in parts of UK, new official estimates show

An astonishing one in 10 people had Covid-19 in London on Sunday, December 19, according to new modelling by the Office for National Statistics. Infection rates across the UK have reached the highest recorded number.

An estimated 1.7 million people in the UK had Covid-19 last week, the highest number since comparable figures began in autumn 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

A record one in 35 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the seven days to Sunday (December 19), according to the ONS.

This is up from one in 45 in the week to December 16.

One in 35 is the equivalent of about 1.5 million people and is the highest number since the ONS began estimating infection levels for England in May 2020.

London had the highest infection rate, with one in 20 people having Covid-19 last week.

The week began with an estimated one in 30 Londoners having Covid and ended with an astonishing one in 10 infected, according to its modelling.

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Shoppers queue up to enter a Pandora store in the West End on December 21, 2021 in London, England.

ONS chief Sir Ian Diamond said the “sobering” figures showed “really big increases” in Covid-19 cases.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “We put these data out today because they are rising so quickly.”

North-east England had England’s lowest proportion of infections last week, at around one in 55.

In Wales, around one in 45 people is estimated to have had Covid-19 last week, slightly below the record of one in 40 in October.

In Northern Ireland, the latest estimate is one in 40, equalling the record from mid-August.

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For Scotland, the latest estimate is one in 65, below September’s peak of one in 45.

All figures are for people in private households.

The estimated percentage of people in England with Covid-19 had increased to 2.83% in the latest figures.

“It’s worth saying that these are the highest percentages we have seen in England since we started doing this survey in April 2020,” Sir Ian said.

London is “clearly the epicentre of the Omicron epidemic” with numbers going up “really steeply”.

He added: “There are increases right across England – with the slight exception of the South West – increases in Wales and Northern Ireland, and Scotland has gone up just a little bit.”

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Sir Ian said there were “some indications” of people engaging in “safer behaviour” in response to the Omicron wave.

But he told the BBC: “At the moment I think it’s far too early to suggest that we will see anything other than a continued rise.”

Sir Ian denied being “shaken” by the speed of the rise in cases because “I think we were gearing ourselves up for them”.

“But at the same time, clearly they are really big increases, and that’s why it was incredibly important, we felt, to get them out into the public domain as soon as possible.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has declared a “major incident” in the capital over the spread of Covid-19.

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He said: “The surge in cases of the Omicron variant across our capital is hugely concerning, so we are once again declaring a major incident because of the threat of Covid-19 to our city.”

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