Covid cases have now peaked in every region of England, new official data shows more evidence that the worst of the Omicron outbreak is over.
For the past seven days in a row, daily infections have fallen week-on-week nationwide and yesterday for the first time in more than a fortnight, below six figures – to 97,000.
The northeast was the only region where the number of infections continued to rise, but the latest figures show that they now mirror the rest of the country.
The region had become a hotspot for Omicron in recent weeks after the outbreak moved north and is home to seven of the 10 local authorities with the highest infection rates.
One in 40 people (2.6 percent) of people in the Northeast tested positive in the past week, the highest point in the pandemic.
Hospital admissions – which are a lagging indicator – have continued to rise with nearly 400 daily Covid admissions in the region last week. But the number in intensive care beds is still flat
Nationally, however, daily hospital admissions have fallen week over week on four of the past seven days.
The number of admissions to intensive care beds has also barely increased, giving No10 confidence that it could ‘get out’ of the current wave. And a host of experts say Omicron infections are now peaking in the country.
A set of promising statistics showed yesterday that the Omicron wave is waning, and one showing that infections are pointing downward in all regions and in almost every age group.
With the worst of the outbreak seemingly apparent, England is now preparing to relax the restrictions put in place to fight Omicron.
The health minister told MPs yesterday that vaccine passports could be scrapped before the end of this month, and ministers are also considering scrapping work from home tutors. Both will be assessed on January 26.
Self-isolation will be reduced to five days on Monday for vaccinated people who test positive for the virus, with Sajid Javid saying the UK will become ‘the freest in Europe’.
Figures from the UK Health Security Agency showed that the number of Covid cases fell last week in 87 per cent of English areas, or 129 out of 149 local authorities. In comparison, in the previous seven-day period (left), there were only cases in 15 congregational areas
Scientists from King’s College London estimate that 183,364 people now contracted the virus every day, down from the record 208,471 in the previous seven-day period. The data is also from health data science company ZOE
NORTH EAST: Pictured above is the number of Covid infections in the Northeast, showing cases starting to peak
NORTH EAST: The above shows the number of patients hospitalized with Covid every day. In the region it is now about the same level as last winter
NORTH EAST: The above shows the number of Covid patients in hospital beds in the region. There are early signs that this may be at a lower level than last winter
NORTH EAST: And above that is the number of patients with Covid on mechanical ventilation beds. This has not risen in a sign that Omicron is milder than its predecessors
Middlesbrough leads the way with about 3,100 infections per 100,000 people, with Hartlepool (2,900) and Stockon-on-Tees (2,800) around the top three.
Scientists from the UK Health Security Agency calculate the infection rate in the English regions using the number of positive smears recorded in the past seven days.
The latest figures, up to January 8, show that the number of cases is now falling day by day in all regions, with five of them – the East Midlands, East of England, London, North West and South East – falling by the week -in the week.
Wales scraps all Covid curbs amid falling cases
The Welsh government is set to scrap all Covid cores within two weeks as it plans to reopen clubs, end the six-in-pubs rule and lift the 50-person restriction on outdoor events.
Mark Drakeford will draw up a plan for Wales to move from alert level two to alert level zero by the end of January if the public health situation continues to improve.
The restrictions on outdoor activities are first relaxed before gradually expanding to other rules introduced on Boxing Day.
Current measures allow a maximum of six people to gather in pubs, restaurants and cinemas, outdoor events limited to 50 people and 30 indoors.
Rules also include the wearing of masks in all public places, the two meter rule and the rule of six in catering establishments. Nightclubs have been forced to close.
The prime minister will hold a press conference at 12.15 p.m. Friday to announce the two-week roadmap following a review of the rules.
This morning, he said the move comes amid a rapid decline in the number of cases, adding: “It looks like we’ve passed Omicron’s peak.”
The number of coronavirus cases in Wales recently fell to 1,492.4 per 100,000 people over seven days – the lowest level since December 27.
The Northeast is still the country’s Covid hotspot, with the most cases per 100,000 people, but they’re now starting to point downward.
The second highest infection rate was in the North West (2,132.6), followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (1,977.5) and the West Midlands (1,785.6).
At the other end of the scale were the South West (1,270.2), the South East (1,374.1) and the East of England (1,460.7). London had the sixth highest infection rate (1,526.5).
In a sign that the Northeast’s decline is real and not due to a change in testing, the PCR positivity rate — the number of swabs detecting the virus — has also begun to decline.
Infection statistics refer to the period before the testing rules were changed so that Britons who test positive using a lateral flow no longer need to receive confirmatory PCR.
The number of hospital admissions across the region has not yet fallen, reaching 390 admissions per day, approaching last winter’s peak of 430.
But the number of Covid patients in hospital has leveled off at 3,000 in recent days, about four-fifths from the previous peak, while the number of mechanical ventilation beds has barely increased.
During a meeting with Tory MPs yesterday, Mr Javid praised the “encouraging signs” but warned that hospitals remained under “significant pressure”, The Times reports.
Currently, people in England are required to show a vaccination certificate or negative lateral current to enter major events and nightclubs.
A source from Whitehall told the paper: ‘There has always been a very high threshold for policy and it seems increasingly likely that that threshold will not be met in a few weeks. As it is now, an extension will be difficult to justify.’
The UK government has faced the biggest Tory uprising since the start of the pandemic over the introduction of Plan B measures last month, with more than 100 Conservatives voting against.
The Prime Minister’s chief Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, dramatically resigned in protest at the rollout of the curbs. Yesterday he criticized the ‘Covid theatre’ of masks and passes, calling lockdown a ‘serious mistake’.
The Times reports that Covid passes are unlikely to be renewed if the health ministry says it’s no longer needed.
Alicia Kearns, the MP for Rutland and Melton, yesterday urged the health minister to “drop domestic certification as soon as possible.”
He replied, “I assure her and the House that as far as I am concerned we will not maintain domestic certification for a moment longer than absolutely necessary.”
Former cabinet minister Greg Clark called on Javid to lift the curbs later this month, saying they will have “an impact beyond Covid as we know”.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Javid cut the number of days people must self-isolate if they test positive for Covid in England to five.
The health minister told MPs that data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that ‘around two-thirds of positive cases are no longer contagious by the end of day five’.
He added: ‘After reviewing all the evidence, we have made the decision to shorten the minimum self-isolation period in England to five full days. From Monday, people will be able to test twice before going – causing isolation at the start of day six.
“These two tests are crucial to these balanced and proportionate plans, and I urge everyone to use the capacity we have built in tests so that we can restore freedoms to this country while keeping everyone safe.”