One in 50 in UK had virus over Xmas

·2-min read

An estimated 1.1 million people in private households in England had COVID-19 between December 27 and January 2, according to new figures scientists describe as "frighteningly high".

The figure is the equivalent of around 2.06 per cent of the population, or one in 50 people, the Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday.

It came as the number of daily confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK topped 60,000 for the first time.

The government said there had been a further 60,916 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK as of 9am.

The ONS figures represent a rise from 800,900 people, or one in 70, estimated to have COVID-19 in the period December 17 to 23.

The figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, described the latest figures as "frighteningly high", adding that for comparison, ONS data from June showed infection numbers were around one in 4000.

"If we also highlight the huge numbers of confirmed daily cases, the fact that there's more people in hospital now with COVID-19 than at any state of the pandemic, and that almost any graph you look at is on a steep upward trajectory, then the UK is clearly not in a good place right now," he said.

He added that although the UK passing 100,000 COVID-19 deaths in the "relatively near future" is "inevitable", the rollout of vaccines allows for some optimism.

But virologist Professor Lawrence Young warned the government needs to focus on rolling out second coronavirus jabs, not just the first, to curb the "alarming rise in infections" being "fuelled by the new coronavirus variant".

Professor Young, at Warwick Medical School, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson "did not discuss the need for the second dose of the vaccine" to be rolled out during his press conference on Tuesday or whether testing capacity would be increased during the lockdown.

In London, an estimated one in 30 people in private households had COVID-19 between December 27 and January 2, the ONS said.

The figure for southeast England, eastern England and northwest England is estimated at one in 45; for the East Midlands it is one in 50; for northeast England - one in 60; and for the West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber - one in 65.

For southwest England the estimate is one in 135.