Covid infections fall to lowest rates since October 2021

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Friday 16th September 2022

Covid infections have fallen to the lowest rate since October 2021 in the UK. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that fewer than one million people in the UK now have Covid-19. This equates to around 1 in 70 people and is a dramatic decrease from 1 in 15 in July. The data relates to infection rates at the end of August 2022.  Despite significant reductions in infection numbers in England and Wales, the rate has flatlined in Northern Ireland and Scotland. The most recent data shows that 1 in 70 people in England would test positive for the virus compared to 1 in 95 in Wales and 1 in 50 in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Almost all regions in England have falling Covid rates and rates are tumbling in most age groups, with the exception of over 70s and 17-24-year-olds. Rates are expected to increase slightly in children and young adults as schools, colleges and universities start the new academic year. 

During the final week of August, ONS figures revealed that 944,700 people in the UK had the virus. This is a decrease of over 50,000 cases from the previous week and is the lowest reading since October 2021. As Covid rates fall in most age groups and UK regions, ministers are encouraging the most vulnerable to take up a booster vaccine. The autumn booster rollout is up and running, with priority groups now able to make an appointment. Facilities including GP centres and community clinics will be offering vaccines for those invited to take advantage of the booster programme. Currently, this covers over 50s, health and social care workers and people who have underlying health issues, which increase the risk of severe symptoms. Care home residents will be the first to be invited for the booster dose. Schools and colleges have already gone back in most parts of the UK and students will be starting or returning to university in the next few weeks. Experts at the ONS will be monitoring infection rates carefully and keeping a close eye on the data. An increase in mixing is likely to cause increases in infection rates in some age groups.

High vaccination rates have contributed to a fall in the number of people developing severe infections. As the number of people with Covid has fallen, hospitalisation and death rates have also decreased. 
The news from the ONS is positive. However, with mixing increasing at schools and universities and many people returning to work after the school holidays, health professionals are urging people to be vigilant and employ simple measures to protect against the virus. These include washing the hands frequently, covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and keeping areas well ventilated where possible.

This year, the NHS will be running the booster scheme alongside the flu vaccine programme. Some people who have been invited for their Covid booster may be asked if they would like a flu jab at the same time. High rates of Covid and seasonal illnesses, such as flu, could put increased pressure on the NHS this winter. Flu vaccines are recommended for people aged over 65, frontline health workers, pregnant women and people who are more vulnerable due to underlying health issues. Some children will also be advised to have the flu jab. 

Covid testing is no longer required in the UK. The ONS data provides an accurate insight into how many people have Covid by carrying out random household testing. Rates surged earlier this year during June and July due to the prevalence of the Omicron B.4 and B.5 subvariants, which spread quickly. 

The list of Covid symptoms on the NHS website has been updated to include fever, headaches, chills, a persistent, new cough, loss of taste and/or smell, muscle aches, fatigue, a sore throat, a runny or blocked nose, diarrhoea and shortness of breath.