In the UK, Covid-19 cases have surged, with 300,000 people infected in the last week

COVID-19 infections grew by 300,000 in the past week – a 23 per cent increase – with an estimated 1.7 million infected with the virus.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 1,360,600 people, in England, tested positive for Covid in the week ending June 18 – a 21 per cent increase from the previous week.

Scotland saw the largest increase of 42 per cent with 250,700 infected, while 68,500 were infected in Wales and 59,900 in Northern Ireland.

COVID-19 infection rates have increased in all regions of England except the North East and South East, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The increase was driven by the new BA.4 and BA.5 variants, which are Omicron sub variants. According to the ONS, incidence rates of the current variants are slightly higher than Alpha during the first wave, however, hospitalizations are four times lower and deaths are 20 times lower.

However, hospital admissions are on the rise across all age groups, and data for England yesterday showed the number of patients in hospital with Covid rose by 40 per cent.

According to an analysis by Adele Groyer of the Covid Actuaries Response Group, the number of people contracting Covid in hospitals is also on the rise. Ms Gruyere said Thursday there were 1,350 people likely to have contracted Covid in hospital in the past week – up from 519 cases four weeks ago.

The figures come after former deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam told BBC Radio 4 Friday morning that ONS data last week showed nothing “worrying”.

He said the current level of hospital admissions and critical care admissions is “benign.”

Prof Van Tam said that if it remained “benign”, the government would have to say “this is part of the way we are beginning to adapt to living with this virus in the long term”.

The UK’s Health Security Agency warned on Friday that Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 now account for more than half of all new Covid cases.

Professor Susan Hopkins, Senior Medical Adviser at UKHSA, said: “It is clear that the increased prevalence of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 is significantly increasing the case numbers that we have observed in recent weeks. We have seen a rise in hospital admissions in line with community infections. But vaccinations are continuing to keep ICU admissions and deaths at low levels.

“With the spread increasing, it is more important than ever that we all stay alert, take precautions, and make sure we keep up with our Covid vaccines, which remain our best defense against the virus. It is never too late to make up if you miss your boosters, or even your first doses. So please take the recommended vaccinations.”

Professor Hopkins warned 17.5 per cent of people aged 75 and over had not received a vaccine in the past six months, putting them at risk of serious illness.

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