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UK News: Covid-19 infection levels fall in three of four UK nations

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Covid-19 infection levels in three of the four UK nations have fallen for the first time since before Christmas, suggesting the peak of the latest wave of coronavirus may have passed.

England, Scotland and Wales all recorded a drop last week in the number of people in private households estimated to have Covid-19, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Northern Ireland is estimated to have seen a small rise in infections, though the ONS described the trend as “uncertain”.

All four nations saw a record level of infections in the first week of the year, as the Omicron variant continued to drive a surge in the virus.

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The latest figures suggest Covid-19 may no longer be quite as prevalent, however.

The number of Covid-19 infections in the UK, which is estimated every week by the ONS, is a more reliable guide to the level of coronavirus across the country than the number of new cases reported every day by the Government.

This is because the number of infections provides a snapshot of the prevalence of Covid-19 within the entire community population of the UK, and estimates the percentage of people who are likely to test positive for the virus at any one point – regardless of when they caught the virus, how long they have had it, and whether they have symptoms.

It is based on a sample of swab tests collected from households across the UK.

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By contrast, the number of cases of Covid-19 reported each day by the Government is limited only to those people who have newly tested positive for the virus, and is therefore affected by how many people are coming forward for tests, those who have reported their test results, or who are taking a test because they know they have coronavirus symptoms.

The latest ONS figures show that an estimated one in 20 people in private households in England are likely to have had Covid-19 in the week to January 15, or around 3.0 million people – down from a record 3.7 million in the week to January 6.

In Scotland, around one in 20 is estimated to have had Covid-19 last week, or 236,600 people, down from 297,400.

For Northern Ireland the latest figure is also one in 20, but the estimate for the number of people testing positive is up slightly from 99,200 to 104,300, with the ONS describing the trend as “uncertain”.

In Wales the estimate is one in 25, or 112,100 people, down from 169,100.

Covid-19 infections have fallen in all regions of England except the north-east and south-west, where the trend is uncertain, the ONS said.

In north-east England, around one in 10 people was likely to test positive for Covid-19 in the week to January 15 – the highest estimate for any region.

South-west England had the lowest rate, at around one in 25.

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