Symptom-tracking app finds 12% drop in number of people getting ill with virus every day…

Britain’s Omicron outbreak has peaked, another surveillance study confirmed today in an extra boost to hopes that the worst of the current wave is over. 

King’s College London researchers estimated the number of people falling ill with the virus each day plunged by 12 per cent over the past week, with 183,000 symptomatic infections now occurring every day. Cases dropped in all age groups and every region except the North East.

The team’s previous estimate — based on data reported to a symptom-tracking app by hundreds of thousands of Britons — stood at a record high 208,000.  

Professor Tim Spector, the epidemiologist who leads the study, argued the data ‘suggests the Omicron wave has peaked’ and said it was ‘reassuring’ that cases had flatlined in the elderly, who were most at risk from the highly-transmissible variant.  

The weekly figures — based on reports from 850,000-odd Britons and 60,000 Covid tests — chimed with official statistics which yesterday showed Covid cases have fallen week-on-week for the seventh day in a row.

Nationally, hospital admissions are also plateauing at about two third of the levels reached in the darkest days of last winter which led to a full lockdown being imposed. And Covid deaths are sitting at about half the levels of a bad flu year.

But NHS bosses have warned it is still too early to consider living with the virus, with hospitals still somewhere between being overwhelmed and working at full capacity.

King’s College London scientists estimated 183,364 people were now catching the virus every day, down from the record high of 208,471 in the previous seven-day spell. The data is also from health data science company ZOE

Covid cases are now ticking down in all England's regions except the North East (green line), they said, but even here there are now signs that infections are plateauing

Covid cases are now ticking down in all England’s regions except the North East (green line), they said, but even here there are now signs that infections are plateauing

Every age group is also seeing their Covid cases tick downwards. But the scientists said a rise in children (orange line) amid the return of schools could not be ruled out, which would trigger an uptick in other groups

Every age group is also seeing their Covid cases tick downwards. But the scientists said a rise in children (orange line) amid the return of schools could not be ruled out, which would trigger an uptick in other groups

They also found people who were suffering from cold-like symptoms were more likely to have Covid (blue line) than other respiratory diseases (orange line). They said symptoms triggered by the virus were 'indistinguishable' from a cold

They also found people who were suffering from cold-like symptoms were more likely to have Covid (blue line) than other respiratory diseases (orange line). They said symptoms triggered by the virus were ‘indistinguishable’ from a cold

December 30
January 6

The above maps show the Covid infection rate changes in England over the weeks ending December 30 and January 6, the latest two available. They indicate that the rate of growth is slowing down across the country

The figures — also from health data science company ZOE — suggested around one in 24 people in the UK had symptomatic Covid up to the week ending January 10, the latest available. 

People in England were most likely to have the virus, they suggested, with one in 23 being infected, followed by Wales, one in 27, and Scotland, one in 33. There were no figures for Northern Ireland because there are too few contributors to the app in the nation.

Britain is months from living with the virus, NHS boss warns

It will be several months before the UK can look at starting to live with Covid, an NHS boss has warned.

Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers which represents hospital trusts, admitted today that the health service was reaching a ‘new kind of normal’.

But she cautioned it was still in the ‘middle phase’ between being overwhelmed and working at full capacity.

Ms Cordery told Times Radio: ‘I think there is considerable uncertainty still about how this will play out because levels come down in London, but they’re going up in the North West, they’re going up in the East of England, so we need to think really carefully about how it’s impacting, and impacting differently across the country.’

Scientists say the UK is now on the verge of beating the pandemic and turning Covid into nothing more than a seasonal menace like the flu. 

And Boris Johnson is understood to be drawing up a ‘living with Covid’ strategy to avoid the need for restrictions every winter.

But this isn’t expected to be published until the end of March at the earliest, when winter pressures will have subsided. 

They also suggested that 52 per cent of people suffering symptoms of a respiratory virus were likely infected with Covid, and that the virus was now ‘indistinguishable’ from a common cold.

Professor Spector said: ‘Covid symptoms are now for the first time this winter more common than colds and flu and are indistinguishable.

‘I don’t expect these rates [Covid cases] to go down to zero as Omicron is so infectious that it will probably continue to circulate at manageable levels in the population until late spring.’

He also called on everyone to stick to ‘Plan B’ rules, saying: ‘In terms of guidance, working from home remains an easy thing many of us can do to slow spread, and wearing high quality masks on public transport to me still feels sensible.’

The figures are the latest to add to an ever-more positive picture in the UK that the worst of the Omicron outbreak has passed without hospitals being overwhelmed or harsher curbs being imposed.

It has prompted suggestions from top scientists that the UK is on the brink of exiting the pandemic, which would make it one of the first countries in the world to do so.

But a senior NHS boss today warned that learning to live with the virus was likely still several months away because of the pressure hospitals are under.

Saffron Caudroy, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers — which represents hospital trusts, admitted the health service was reaching a ‘new kind of normal’.

But she cautioned it was still in the ‘middle phase’ between being overwhelmed and working at full capacity.

Ms Cordery told Times Radio: ‘I think there is considerable uncertainty still about how this will play out because levels come down in London, but they’re going up in the North West, they’re going up in the East of England, so we need to think really carefully about how it’s impacting, and impacting differently across the country.

‘I think we’re somewhere between the middle phase and going towards still being beyond full stretch, really, because what we have to remember is that the NHS isn’t an island, we have a huge impact of Covid across all of the different services that work alongside and with the NHS.’

She said there were still ‘very high levels of hospital admissions’, and that hospitals were still seeing ‘significant’ numbers of beds occupied by patients needing ventilators. 

A record 3.7million people were infected with Covid on any day last week in England — but cases were slowing nationally, the country's gold-standard Office for National Statistics' surveillance study has found

A record 3.7million people were infected with Covid on any day last week in England — but cases were slowing nationally, the country’s gold-standard Office for National Statistics’ surveillance study has found

A record 3.7million people were infected with Covid on any day last week in England — but cases were slowing nationally, the country’s gold-standard surveillance study has found.

Analysts at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated roughly one in 15 people would have tested positive on January 6, up by about 14 per cent on the previous seven days. 

That is the smallest increase since Omicron became dominant at the start of December and the ONS said it was ‘encouraging’ that infections are falling in the former epicentre London. 

Latest Government dashboard data shows the capital recorded just 12,309 new cases yesterday — the lowest in a month.  

The ONS’ weekly infection survey is regarded as being the most reliable indicator of the outbreak because it uses random sampling of 100,000 people, rather than relying on people coming forward for tests. Despite promising signs, it still showed as many as one in 10 were thought to have had Covid in the North West and Yorkshire. 

The ONS report, used by ministers to guide Covid policy, is normally published on Friday — but its release has been moved forward while infections run at unprecedented levels. 

Nationally, the UK recorded 129,587 Covid cases yesterday, which was its lowest daily tally since late December and down a third on the same time last week.

Its hospitalisations also appear to be plateauing with the latest figures — up to January 8 — showing 2,049 admissions, barely a change from the 2,034 seven days beforehand.

The number of Covid patients in hospital beds is currently plateauing at just under 20,000, just over half of the levels from the peak of the wave last winter.

But the number of patients needing ventilators has barely risen throughout the wave as Omicron is less severe than previous strains. There are currently around 800 Covid patients on ventilators nationwide, well below the peak of 4,000 last winter.

Boris Johnson is currently drawing up a ‘living with Covid’ strategy, to ensure the nation does not need to keep imposing more restrictions every winter. But it is not expected to be published until the end of March. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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