An estimated 1.7 million people had coronavirus across the UK last week, the highest number since comparable records began last year, new figures suggest.
The new Office for National Statistics (ONS) data covers people who tested positive for COVID-19 outside hospital or a care setting during the week ending 19 December.
In England there were 1.5 million people with the virus that week – the equivalent of one in 35 people.
The figure was highest in London, where most cases of the Omicron variant have been detected, at a rate of one in 20 people.
It was lowest in Scotland, where the figure was one in 65, followed by Wales with one in 45 and Northern Ireland at one in 40.
Commenting on the figures, UK Health Security Agency chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said the UK “hasn’t seen rates like this” since comparable figures were first published in autumn 2020.
But she stressed that despite data published yesterday – that someone with Omicron is between 50% and 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital than a patient with Delta – officials are still unsure of how it will affect the elderly and clinically vulnerable.
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“Most of the cases of Omicron in the UK so far have been in younger people,” she told Sky News.
“We’re only just starting to see cases tip into the over-60s and over-70s. This is a very, very mixed picture. So we need to be absolutely sure what the severity risk is.”
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