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COVID-19: Infections rise by nearly half a million in a week

Last week, an estimated 1,415,600 people had coronavirus in the UK, up 425,800 or 43%. The rise is likely to have been caused by the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.

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COVID-19 cases have surged by nearly half in a week, official figures show.

Last week, an estimated 1,415,600 people had coronavirus in the UK, up 425,800 or 43%.

This is the highest estimate for infections since the start of May, but is still well below the record high of 4.9 million at the end of March.

Cases rose in all four nations of the UK - and increased across all age groups.

In England, around one in 50 people had the virus, according to the coronavirus infection survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Infection rates increased in all English regions, except for the North East where the trend was uncertain, the ONS said.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, one in 45 were positive, and in Scotland one in 30 had the virus.

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The rise is likely to have been caused by the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.

Omicron BA.1 is the original variant of Omicron that saw infections surge across the UK around in December and early January this year.

It was followed by a second wave driven by sub-variant BA.2 in around March.

While BA.2 still makes up most UK infections, the emergence of BA.4 and BA.5 in May is effectively another wave.

Newer variants, BA.4 and BA.5, were recently classified as "variants of concern" by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

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Initial research indicates BA.4 and BA.5 variants have a degree of "immune escape" - meaning the immune system can no longer recognise or fight the virus.

This is likely to contribute to their dominance over BA.2, according to the UKHSA.

Summer Omicron wave may not mean steep rise in infections - but it's the last thing the economy needs

Thomas Moore

Science correspondent

@SkyNewsThomas

It looks likely that we are heading into a summer surge of COVID.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics show the number of people with the disease has increased by 43% in a week.

And even that probably doesn’t fully capture what is going on at the moment.

There is a lag in the ONS numbers – the people it found to be infected in the week up to 9th June actually picked up the virus a week or two earlier.

If you look at the hospital data on the COVID dashboard it shows a consistent rise in people coming into hospital with COVID since the start of June.

Most of those will be people testing positive as they come through the door to be treated for other medical conditions.

In other words, the rise in admissions is reflecting increasing COVID rates in the community.

Scientists had predicted this would happen, pointing to the on-going tug-of-war between the virus and our immunity.

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