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Covid-19: Northern Ireland only UK nation to have seen week-on-week rise in cases according to latest figures

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PICTURE POSED BY MODEL A person holding a Covid 19 lateral flow test. Picture date: Saturday January 8, 2022.

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL A person holding a Covid 19 lateral flow test. Picture date: Saturday January 8, 2022.

PA

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL A person holding a Covid 19 lateral flow test. Picture date: Saturday January 8, 2022.

Northern Ireland is only nation to have seen a week-on-week rise in the prevalence of Covid-19 cases, despite infections falling for the first time in two months across the rest of the UK.

That is according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, which show some 3.2 million people in private households in the UK are estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week to July 20, down 16% from 3.8 million in the previous week.

However in Northern Ireland infections there have increased to an estimated 113,400 people, or one in 16, up from 88,400, or one in 20.

The ONS describes the trend as "uncertain".

It is the first time total infections have fallen across the UK generally since the week ending May 28.

Sarah Crofts, ONS head of analytical outputs for the Covid-19 infection survey, said: "Our most recent data suggest that we may now be over the peak of the latest wave of infections across the UK, although rates still remain among the highest seen during the course of the pandemic.

"We have seen welcome decreases among most parts of the UK and in all age groups.

"With summer holidays starting and more people travelling, we will continue to closely monitor the data."

The current wave has been driven by the BA.5 Omicron subvariant, which is now the dominant form of Covid-19 in the country.

High levels of coronavirus antibodies among the population - either from vaccination or previous infection - mean the number of people seriously ill or dying from the virus remains low.

An estimated 2.6 million people in England were likely to have had coronavirus in the week to July 20, the equivalent of around one in 20, the ONS said.

This is down from 3.1 million, or one in 17, a week earlier.

In Scotland, 272,000 people were estimated to have had the virus in the most recent week, or around one in 19.

This is down from 340,900, or one in 15.

Wales has seen infections fall to 156,200, or one in 19 people, down from 183,200, or one in 17.

The ONS figures are based on a sample of swab tests collected regularly from people in households across the UK, whether or not they have Covid symptoms, and is the most reliable measure of the prevalence of the virus.

If infections continue to fall in future weeks, it means the BA.5 wave will have peaked in the UK at a lower level than the BA.2 wave earlier this year, which saw infections hit a weekly record of 4.9 million in late March.

Professor James Naismith, from the University of Oxford, said it is "encouraging" to see the current wave "falling backwards", and that prevalence of the virus "will have fallen further" since the ONS estimates were compiled.

He added: "The vaccines have proved extraordinarily effective at lowering serious illness and deaths. They are less effective at preventing infection. Many people have had multiple bouts of Covid-19 and being infected does not give a magical immunity - vaccination is by the far the safest way to protect oneself against serious illness.

"This wave put the health service under significant pressure, which also appears to be easing."


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