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England’s next wave of Covid has officially begun, leading experts said today that two months of tumbling cases have come to an end.
Government statisticians charged with tracking the outbreak estimated that last week 766,500 people were infected each day — 8.6 percent more than the previous weekly toll.
It marks the first increase in infections since mid-July, when the summer wave peaked and ministers faced calls to bring back pandemic-era restrictions.
Covid hospital admissions are also on the rise, putting additional pressure on overwhelmed NHS facilities in the run-up to what is feared will be another disastrous winter for the crisis-stricken health service.
Public health heads have warned that rates will continue to rise as the colder weather approaches and we spend more time indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.
Experts think the rise is likely due to a back-to-school effect, as well as Brits returning from summer vacation.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline: ‘We know that traveling abroad is a big risk factor – we saw infections start to increase around this time last year before schools went back. . These are people who pick up the virus and bring it back from holidays at home and abroad.
“And the waning immunity probably plays a role because the latest data suggests that boosters only really protect against infection for about three months.”
Government statisticians charged with tracking the outbreak estimated that last week 766,500 people were infected each day — 8.6 percent more than the previous weekly toll. It marks the first increase in infections since mid-July, when the summer wave peaked and ministers faced calls to bring back pandemic-era restrictions
dr. Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to the UK Health Security Agency, said rates were ‘still low’ but there was clearly an increase.
She said, “For those who qualify, now is the time to get your fall booster. Getting a booster will give your immune system time to build up your protection against getting seriously ill from Covid as we head into winter.
‘As it gets colder and we move towards winter, we will see an increase in respiratory infections – try to stay home if you are sick and avoid contact with vulnerable people.’
Weekly estimates published by the ONS, which are closely monitored by the government, are considered the most accurate way to track the shape of the outbreak in the UK.
Unlike the number of reported infections, which has been wildly inaccurate since the mass testing program was halted in April, it does not rely on Britons testing themselves and reporting the result.
Cases also increased in Wales (prevalence of 39,700, up 40.8 percent). Still, they fell in Scotland (98,800, down 13.0 percent) and Northern Ireland (22,900, down 32.0 percent).
ONE THIRD of NHS capacity is taken up by bed blockers at the busiest trusts
According to a startling MailOnline analysis exposing the extent of the country’s ‘devastating’ bedblock, up to a third of the beds in England’s busiest NHS trusts are occupied by patients who shouldn’t be there.
More than 13,000 hospital beds across the country, or one in seven, are currently filled with patients declared fit for discharge by doctors.
But rates are rising to as much as one in three in the worst-hit hospitals, found in Bristol and Coventry, as well as parts of Lancashire and Norfolk.
Experts say the numbers are driven by a separate crisis in social care, which has left medically fit patients languishing in wards for up to nine months because there is no suitable nursing housing or care available for them in the community.
The newly appointed Health Minister, Therese Coffey, has already vowed to end the scandal, which has risen to record levels and is estimated to cost taxpayers around £2 billion a year.
This helps prevent deadly ambulance delays by avoiding paramedics queuing for emergency rooms, waiting for a bed to be released. It will also boost efforts to tackle the care backlog caused by Covid, by freeing up space to admit more patients.
In an effort to avert a collapse of the NHS this winter, Dr. Coffey yesterday that she would give the crippled social care sector £500 million in emergency funds.
The figures, which relate to the week ending September 14, are based on swabs from thousands of people.
Sarah Crofts, deputy director of the US Covid Infection Survey, said: ‘Today’s data shows a mixed picture in the UK, with increases in England and Wales, while infections have declined in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“It’s too early to see if these changing trends will continue, and we’ll be watching the data closely to see the impact of school returns in the coming weeks.”
The most up-to-date statistics from NHS England show Covid pressures are also increasing in hospitals, reflecting the rise of the community.
About 781 virus-related admissions were recorded on September 19, an increase of about 17 percent from the previous week.
Yet the toll is only a fraction of the levels seen during the darkest days of the pandemic, when more than 4,000 new patients required NHS care each day.
In addition, not all of these patients need treatment against the virus.
Only a third of infected patients occupying NHS beds are mainly sick with Covid, while the rest occasionally test positive and receive care for other conditions such as a broken leg or heart disease.
And the number of patients treated directly for Covid is about one-eighth that of so-called bed blockers.
But the virus seems to be spreading rapidly in NHS wards. The likely number of hospital-acquired infections has risen nearly 50 percent in the past week to 1,133 in England.
Despite Covid pressures expected to increase in the coming weeks, the Liz Truss government is unlikely to bring back any reins after her longtime boss Boris Johnson opted for the ‘living with Covid’ approach.
Under the blueprint designed to free Britain from its Covid shackles in a post-lockdown world, mandatory isolation rules, free testing and home counseling were scrapped.
Ministers are instead putting their faith in vaccines, which have dramatically mitigated the threat of the virus over time, turning it into something more akin to the flu — a seasonal virus that the country lives with every year.
This month saw the official launch of the Covid fall booster program, which is now open to the over-65s, carers and pregnant women.
About 26 million people in the UK will be offered their booster upgrade in the coming months.