Covid cases in the UK have skyrocketed since the anniversary; BA.4, BA.5 become dominant

A total of 1,739,700 people have tested positive for the virus in the week to 18 June, according to new estimates from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Xinhua News Agency | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

LONDON – The number of Covid-19 cases in the UK is on the rise again, according to new data, indicating a surge in infections since the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

A total of 1,739,700 people tested positive for the virus in the week leading up to June 18. Office for National Statistics UK showed Friday.

That figure is up 75% from two weeks earlier, before the British celebrated the Queen’s 70th birthday on the throne with a long weekend of street parties and social gatherings.

The rise comes after the UK Health Safety Authority said on Friday that the latest technical data suggests that two of the new Omicron variants – BA.4 and BA.5 – have become dominant in the UK and cause a recent rise in infections.

These two options now account for more than half of new Covid cases in England, accounting for roughly 22% and 39% of cases respectively.

“It is clear that the growing prevalence of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 greatly increases the number of cases we have seen in recent weeks,” UKHSA chief medical adviser Professor Susan Hopkins said on Friday.

The latest UKHSA analysis shows that BA.5 is growing 35.1% faster than the previously dominant BA.2, while BA.4 is growing about 19.1% faster. This suggests that BA.5 is likely to soon become the dominant Covid variant in the UK.

Both variants were designated “variants of concern” in May, although scientists said there is currently no evidence that either causes more serious disease than previous strains.

However, health experts have reminded people that make sure their vaccinations are up to date and continue to follow Covid safe behavior. This includes staying home if you have any respiratory symptoms or a fever, and limiting contact with other people until you feel better.

Around 20-25% of people in the UK currently remain unvaccinated.

“As prevalence rises, it’s more important than ever that we all stay vigilant, take precautions and make sure we have COVID-19 vaccines, which remain our best form of protection against the virus,” Hopkins said.

Increasing number of cases and hospitalizations

ONS data released on Friday showed the percentage of positive cases in the community was highest in Scotland, where one in 20 people tested positive for the virus last week.

It is followed by Northern Ireland (one in 30), England (one in 40) and Wales (one in 45).

Overall, England reported the highest number of cases at 1,360,600, followed by Scotland (250,700), Wales (68,500) and Northern Ireland (59,900).

The UK celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with a four-day weekend from 2 to 5 June.

Mike Kemp | In pictures | Getty Images

Data collected by randomly testing thousands of people from private UK households, whether they have symptoms or not, is believed to provide the clearest picture of Covid infections in the UK, as free public testing has been phased out in England and Scotland.

Covid hospitalizations have also increased along with the spread of infections in the community, rising by 8.2% in England over the past week, according to UKHSA data.

“The burden on the healthcare system in terms of the number of occupied beds is increasing,” the doctor said. This was at a briefing on Friday, said a member of the team of scientists Indie Sage Duncan Robertson.

Vaccinations continue to keep serious hospitalizations and deaths low, the UKSHA said Friday. The admission rate to intensive care units and intensive care units remained low at 0.2% over the same period.

However, Robertson cautioned against complacency, pointing to a small spike in deaths in the week leading up to June 18 and noting potential distortion in reports of the Jubilee public holiday.

“If you look at the data in terms of the number of reported deaths, it increased in the last release, but that could be due to anniversary effects,” he said.