Experts encourage the public to protect the most vulnerable, as Covid rates rise

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Wednesday, 12th October 2022

Health experts are encouraging the public to protect the most vulnerable, as Covid infection rates continue to rise across the UK.

The latest figures show that around 1.3 million people in the UK currently have the virus. This equates to 1 in 50 people. Rates have been rising steadily since September, but there has been a “marked increase” in infection numbers among over 70s in recent weeks. The number of people in hospital with Covid is also increasing. 

Experts are urging people to be cautious when socialising with older relatives and those who may be at greater risk of severe symptoms and they are also encouraging anyone who is eligible for the flu and Covid booster vaccines to come forward. There are fears of a “twindemic” this winter, with Covid and flu circulating. More than 6 million people will be contacted about free vaccinations in the coming weeks, NHS England has confirmed. The first stage of the autumn booster rollout commenced in September with care home residents the first to be offered the jab. Other priority groups include over 70s, health and social care workers and people who have underlying health issues that put them at risk of serious illness. 

Although random testing carried out as part of the Office for National Statistics’ Covid-19 survey indicates that infection rates are rising, there is not yet cause for panic, according to experts. National statistician, Sir Ian Diamond, said that it was too early to describe the uptick as a “winter wave” but suggested that this could be the case if numbers continue to trend upwards. Dr Mary Ramsey, from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said that increases were inevitable, as schools and universities have gone back and confirmed that the rise in cases has not been caused by a new variant. Prof Mark Woolhouse, from the University of Edinburgh, suggested that the figures were “not yet alarming” but do cause concern. Chief medical adviser at the UKHSA, Dr Susan Hopkins, encouraged people to think carefully about how they act if they feel unwell. As infection rates and hospitalisations reach the highest level in months, Dr Hopkins urged the public to avoid mixing with vulnerable individuals if they feel unwell. She also advised wearing a face covering in public to reduce the risk of spreading Covid. 

The latest data from the ONS shows that 1 in 50 people would test positive for Covid in England. This is an increase from 1 in 65 during the previous week. In Wales and Scotland, there have not been any significant changes and the rates remain at 1 in 50 and 1 in 45 respectively. Rates have risen dramatically in Northern Ireland from 1 in 80 people to 1 in 40. Sir Ian Diamond stressed the importance of vaccines in the run-up to the winter months. Vaccines have helped to keep hospitalisation rates and deaths relatively low compared to the first wave of infections in 2020 when no vaccines were available and mass testing was not in place.

The number of people in hospital is likely to cause concern among health professionals who have already warned of a difficult winter for the NHS. Data shows that hospital admissions in England have risen significantly, particularly among older people. The rate of hospitalisation among over 85s now stands at 132.3 per 100,000 people in England compared to 80.1 in July. Despite the increase in Covid cases, the majority of people who have Covid are in hospital for other reasons. Over 65% are receiving treatment for other conditions. Hospitals in some parts of the country have imposed additional measures to try to protect vulnerable patients and staff and lower the risk of infection. Recently, hospitals in Kettering and Northampton issued new advice, including mandatory face masks for all visitors and a limit of one visitor per day for inpatients.