The number of Covid-19 infections in England has reached its greatest level since the year’s beginning, with about one in 40 people currently sick.
The final time that regular estimates of the rate of coronavirus infection will be made in England was just announced by health officials.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said today that the virus probably infected around 1,500,000 people in the week ending March 13.
This is up from 1,300,000 million the previous week, making it the highest total for the country since the week to January 3, when it stood at 2,200,000.
The ONS said infections have increased among younger and older ages groups especially, among those aged two to school Year 11 and those aged 50 and over.
The North West saw the highest recorded Covid-19 prevalence in the country, with an estimated 4.14% of people infected, or one in 25.
Figures for the rest of the UK are largely uncertain due to a small sample, though there are some signs there is an upswing in the virus in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Around 136,200 people in Scotland were likely to have Covid-19 on any given day in the week of March 13, or around one in 40.
This compared with 105,100, or one in 50, the previous week.
For Wales, around one in 40 people have become infected with coronavirus, or 74,500 people, compared to 68,200.
Not enough samples were returned in Northern Ireland to get a grasp of the Covid-19 situation there.
This will be the final snapshot of England captured by the ONS’s long-running infection survey.
Moving forward, monitoring of the virus that has sickened 24,400,000 and killed more than 208,000 will be announced after a review into what’s more ‘cost-effective’, the UK Health Security Agency said.
ONS head of health surveillance dissemination Michelle Bowen said: ‘This week’s data show infections are rising in England; however, the trend is uncertain across the rest of the UK.
‘In England, positivity increased in children and those aged 50 and over.
‘The North West, East Midlands and South East of England all saw infections increase, though the trend is uncertain in all other regions.’
The infection survey has been running for the last three years since the coronavirus first began upending the lives of countless Brits.
By tracking known cases, deaths, hospitalisations and positive tests, the ONS survey has been vital in showing how the virus has spread over time.
It also helped supply information needed to decipher new wily variants as well as antibody counts and long Covid.
Tracking the virus nowadays has been tricky, to say the least, given that not everyone tests for the virus or still reports it back to health authorities.
But the ONS survey collects tests from households regardless of whether they knew they had coronavirus or if they reported results to the NHS.
Winding down the survey comes amid a sharp surge in hospital admissions in England for the third week in a row.
The number is now 10.6% per 100,000 people in the seven days to March 19 – again, the highest since the beginning of the year.
The gap in official data will now mean hospital admissions and death registrations will be the only two leading indicators for where and how the virus is spreading.
Sir David Spiegelhalter, emeritus professor of statistics at Cambridge University and chairman of the advisory board for the survey, said the survey has been ‘world-leading’.
‘It is expensive, and this has led to it being paused, but the participant group is not being disbanded and a survey should be able to ramp up when necessary,’ he said.
‘Meanwhile, there are important lessons to be learned for future emergencies, both by us and every other country.
‘The survey has been the envy of the world and is a jewel in the crown of UK science.’