London 'clearly past the peak' of Omicron as cases slow in rest of country

LONDON is “clearly past the peak” of Omicron, experts say, while cases are slowing in the rest of the country.

The fast-spreading mutant variant caused chaos over the festive period, with millions of infections – but there are signs this was the worst of it.

Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s regional director for London, said officials are starting to see a decrease in Covid prevalence in the capital.

“We think we may have passed or are at the peak,” he told Sky News on Sunday morning. 

“Data from the ONS [Office for National Statistics] suggests that the peak may have occurred at or just about New Year period and we’re seeing reductions in overall case rates across the city and the prevalence of infections within the community.”

“Remember that infection levels are still very, very high… It means that we’re not yet out of this critical phase of the pandemic, although we may well be past the peak.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, statistician at the University of Cambridge, said it was “clear” the peak has passed. 

“It looks like we have reached the peak of cases in London,” he told Times Radio. “It’s pretty clear that that is the case.”

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Case by case

The Government coronavirus dashboard shows that since Christmas, London has seen case rates come down almost every day by small increments.

The “peak” level was reached on December 23, at 2,042.3 per 100,000.

This has come down to 1,801.4 per 100,000 as of January 4 – the most recent date that information is available for cases by date of test. 

Official records show as of January 8, daily infections are starting to fall in the South East and East of England too.

Graham Medley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, cautioned the trends may simply be a reflection of testing.

There was potentially a surge in testing in the days before Christmas as people hoped to spend time with family, which would have led to the detection of more Covid cases.

For example, on December 23, more than 300,000 lab Covid tests were undertaken in London.

The rate has more than halved to 141,700 on January 8.

Prof Medley told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think that at the moment the testing capacity issues, and the Christmas and the new year, mean that we can’t really rely on cases to tell us what’s going to happen exactly.”

Cases are still increasing in all other regions, but at a much slower rate than before.

The North West, North East and Yorkshire have higher rates than London.

Of the top 10 highest local authority case rates in England, seven are in north-west England.

However, London tends to be around two to three weeks ahead of the rest of Britain in terms of infections, giving hope that outbreaks will start to fizzle in other regions soon.

Hospitals ‘coping’

In terms of hospital admissions per day, most regions have seen a week-on-week fall.

But numbers are still climbing in the North West and North East and Yorkshire, and this is reflected in the number of inpatients, too.

In the North West, there are 3,00 hospital inpatients – 69 per cent the region’s second wave peak of 4,300. A similar picture is seen in the North East and Yorkshire. 

London, south-east England and south-west England have all seen a drop or stabilising of Covid hospital patients in the last few days.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital bosses, said he believed the health service’s “front line will hold”.

Prof Medley said the Omicron virus itself is “less severe” than Delta but it is “just as threatening” due to its transmissibility.

A raft of positive studies show that Omicron causes a much milder illness than Delta.

A third jab also significantly slashes the risk of falling seriously ill – and The Sun’s Jab’s Army campaign is helping get vital boosters in people’s arms.

The impact of vaccines is clear when looking at the data for ventilators. 

Some 860 people in the UK are on a ventilator compared to the January 2021 peak of 4,077.

In fact, the number of Covid patients on ventilators in England alone dropped to its lowest level since October last year.

Ministers say the combination of boosters and Plan B measures are “working” and are not expected to announce fresh measures.

On Sunday, new UK Covid cases dropped for the fifth day in a row, with 141,472 infections recorded.

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