More than 2m people in UK had Covid in early October as flu cases rise

More than 2 million people in the UK are estimated to have had Covid in early October, as figures suggest levels of flu are on the rise.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, about one in 30 people in England – 3.1% of the population – had Covid in the week ending 10 October based on swabs from randomly selected households. The figure is an increase from one in 35 the week before, and suggests about 1,706,200 people in the community were infected in the most recent week.

A rise in levels of infection was also reported in Wales, reaching one in 25, although the trend was uncertain in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

“Though infections have increased overall in England, it is a mixed picture across regions and age groups,” said Sarah Crofts, the deputy director for the Covid-19 infection survey, adding it was too early to say from the data whether recent overall rises were starting to slow.

However, data from pillar one testing – which encompasses Covid tests taken in hospital – and Covid hospital admission rates, released by the UK Health Security Agency on Thursday, suggest the tide may well be turning.

That is backed up by the latest figures from NHS England: while 8,198 Covid patients were admitted to hospital in the seven days ending 10 October, this fell to 7,809 in the week ending 17 October.

The UKHSA data suggests levels of flu are rising, albeit from very low levels, and earlier than is typically seen.

“We are seeing hospitalisations and ICU admissions rising the fastest in children under five,” the agency stated, with data suggesting flu hospitalisations in this age group were at about 2.8 per 100,000 people in the most recent week.

Experts have previously warned of a potential ‘twindemic” this winter amid concerns that influenza may hit hard, as it did earlier this year in Australia, after being kept at low levels during the past three years as a result of Covid measures.

Dr Mary Ramsay, the director of public health programmes at the UK Health Security Agency, said the data showed early signs of the anticipated threat from flu this season.

“We’re urging parents in particular not to be caught out as rates of hospitalisations and ICU admissions are currently rising fastest in children under five. This will be a concern for many parents and carers of young children, and we urge them to take up the offer of vaccination for eligible children as soon as possible,” she said.

Ramsay suggested the apparent peak in the Covid wave might be linked to the Covid autumn booster campaign.

“There’s no room for complacency though, as cases could rise again at any point and we need to be armed in readiness through vaccination of everyone who’s eligible,” she said.

Ramsay added that there were actions individuals could take to reduce the risk of spreading infections to others, particularly those most at risk.

“If you are feeling unwell, avoid contact with elderly people or those with underlying health conditions,” she said.

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