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Omi-gone: Summer Covid wave appears to be over already as ONS finds infections fell in England

The summer wave of Covid infections has peaked already as data shows cases fell for the first time in nearly two months last week.

An estimated 2.6million people (one in 20) had the virus on any given day in England in the seven days to July 20, according to the Office for National Statistics, down 16 per cent on the previous week.

It marks the first time infections have dipped since the fifth wave took off at the start of June, fuelled by the new, highly transmissible Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

The rapid rise in weekly cases, which peaked at 3.1million in mid-July, prompted calls among some scientists and health bosses for light-touch restrictions to return again, including face masks, free testing and outdoor mixing.

It culminated in a health minister admitting measures could be re-imposed if Covid threatened the NHS’ ability to clear its backlogs. 

Sarah Crofts, head of analytical outputs for the Covid Infection Survey, said: ‘Our most recent data suggest that we may now be over the peak of the latest wave of infections across the UK, although rates still remain among the highest seen during the course of the pandemic.

‘We have seen welcome decreases among most parts of the UK and in all age groups. With summer holidays starting and more people travelling, we will continue to closely monitor the data.’ 

The ONS found infections also fell in Scotland and Wales in the most recent week, but the trend was uncertain in Northern Ireland. In England, cases dropped in every region except the North East. 

The summer wave of Covid infections appears to have peaked already as data shows cases fell for the first time in nearly two months last week. An estimated 2.6million people had the virus on any given day in England in the seven days to July 20, according to the Office for National Statistics, down 16 per cent on the previous week

The summer wave of Covid infections appears to have peaked already as data shows cases fell for the first time in nearly two months last week. An estimated 2.6million people had the virus on any given day in England in the seven days to July 20, according to the Office for National Statistics, down 16 per cent on the previous week

1659756212 747 Omi gone Summer Covid wave appears to be over already as

1659756212 747 Omi gone Summer Covid wave appears to be over already as

1659756212 698 Omi gone Summer Covid wave appears to be over already as

1659756212 698 Omi gone Summer Covid wave appears to be over already as

1659756212 168 Omi gone Summer Covid wave appears to be over already as

1659756212 168 Omi gone Summer Covid wave appears to be over already as

1659756212 904 Omi gone Summer Covid wave appears to be over already as

1659756212 904 Omi gone Summer Covid wave appears to be over already as

Mystery over spike in Covid deaths on hottest day ever 

Covid deaths spiked on the hottest day ever in what experts say could be the first sign of a surge in heatwave fatalities.

Official figures show 258 people with the virus died on July 19 in England — the same day the mercury hit 40.2C (104.4F).

The figure was up by 100 (68 per cent) in a week and marks the highest daily fatality toll since April, when infections were at record levels.

However, deaths are still running at a fraction of the levels seen during the darkest days of the pandemic.

Scientists trying to unpick the sudden spike say Covid infections were already at very high levels when the heatwave hit.

They suggest the rise in deaths may have been among people who died from heat-related illnesses but happened to have Covid at the same time. 

Others warned some elderly and vulnerable people may have died because they were isolating alone with the virus. The sweltering temperatures may have also worsened people’s Covid infections.

However, the way deaths are registered in the NHS mean many of the deaths likely occurred days before they were actually posted on the Government dashboard.

Daily virus deaths had already been rising slowly earlier this month and an estimated 3.1million people were infected in the days leading up to July 19.

Covid hospital admissions in England have been falling since the middle of this month, attributed to the fact that while BA.4 and BA.5 are extremely transmissible, they are just as mild as their parent strain.

Deaths — the biggest lagging indicator — have been rising slowly for several weeks but are still at a fraction of the levels of previous waves, with fewer than 100 daily fatalities in England among people with the virus.

An even smaller number died primarily from the disease.

Meanwhile, the estimated number of people testing positive for Covid last week in Wales was 156,200, equating to 5.1 per cent of the population, or around one in 19 people.

In Scotland, there were roughly 272,000 infections, or one in 19 people, and In Northern Ireland, there was around 113,400 cases, or one in 16. 

In England, the percentage of people testing positive decreased in all age groups and regions — except the North East.

Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious disease at the University of East Anglia, said: ‘As expected, today’s ONS prevalence survey has shown a decline in infection rates in the UK. 

‘That these other surveillance methods are continuing to show a fall in infections as are new hospital admissions and people in hospital we can expect to see further falls in the ONS estimates over the next couple of weeks at least and probably longer. 

‘Deaths within 28 days of testing positive for Covid should be peaking about now, but this will not be that oblivious in the data for another couple of weeks due to the lag in recording deaths.’

Professor James Naismith, a biologist at the University of Oxford, said: ‘It is encouraging to see that the latest wave of covid19 is falling backwards, with prevalence dropping across the UK.’

It comes after MailOnline revealed there was a sudden spike in Covid deaths on the hottest day ever, which has puzzled scientists.

Official figures show 258 people with the virus died on July 19 in England — the same day the mercury hit 40.2C (104.4F).

The figure was up by 100 (68 per cent) in a week and marked the highest daily fatality toll since April, when infections were at record levels.

This graph shows the number of deaths directly due to Covid recorded in England and Wales. The number of deaths being recorded these nations currently is far below that of previous waves earlier year and a sheer fraction of those seen at the start of 2021

This graph shows the number of deaths directly due to Covid recorded in England and Wales. The number of deaths being recorded these nations currently is far below that of previous waves earlier year and a sheer fraction of those seen at the start of 2021

This graph shows the number of deaths directly due to Covid recorded in England and Wales. The number of deaths being recorded these nations currently is far below that of previous waves earlier year and a sheer fraction of those seen at the start of 2021

Scientists trying to unpick the sudden spike say Covid infections were already at very high levels when the heatwave hit.

They suggest the rise in deaths may have been among people who died from heat-related illnesses but happened to have Covid at the same time. 

Others warned some elderly and vulnerable people may have died because they were isolating alone with the virus. The sweltering temperatures may have also worsened people’s Covid infections.

However, the way deaths are registered in the NHS mean many of the deaths likely occurred days before they were actually posted on the Government dashboard.

Heatwaves kill up to 2,000 Britons every summer, as dehydration and heatstroke can lead to deadly blood clots, strokes and cause deterioration among those already suffering underlying conditions. 

Accidents and injuries, such as from car crashes, are also more common during hot spells.

While the true death count linked to two days of record-breaking heat last week won’t be known for months, experts estimate more than 800 people died across the UK last Monday and Tuesday alone.

The Covid data, published by the UK Health Security Agency, counts all virus deaths among Britons who tested positive in the previous 28 days.

1659756212 410 Omi gone Summer Covid wave appears to be over already as

1659756212 410 Omi gone Summer Covid wave appears to be over already as

A Met Office graphic last week shows how parts of London and southern England suffered record temperatures of up to 40C

A Met Office graphic last week shows how parts of London and southern England suffered record temperatures of up to 40C

A Met Office graphic last week shows how parts of London and southern England suffered record temperatures of up to 40C

Did Covid emerge in notorious wet market — NOT a lab — after all? 

Fierce debate about the origins of the Covid pandemic was reignited this week after two new studies claimed to trace the outbreak back to a notorious animal slaughter market in Wuhan.

One shows for the first time how the earliest human cases were clustered within a small radius around the Huanan Seafood Market in winter 2019.

More precise analysis of swabs taken from floors, cages and counters track the virus back to stalls in the southwestern corner of the market, where animals that can harbour Covid were sold for meat or fur at the time.

A second study claims to have pinpointed the exact date the first animal-to-human infection occurred — November 18, 2019 — after carrying out genetic analysis on hundreds of samples from the first human carriers.

They also say they have found evidence another first generation strain was spreading at the wet market — which, if true, would place both original lineages within its walls.

Until recently, the only Covid cases linked to the market were Lineage B, which was thought to have evolved after Lineage A. Proponents of the accidental lab leak hypothesis used this as proof the virus only arrived at the market after evolving elsewhere in Wuhan.

One of the experts involved in the new studies, virologist Professor David Robertson, of the University of Glasgow, said he hopes they will ‘correct the false record that the virus came from a lab’. 

But critics have played down or disputed the findings entirely, and warned both studies were carried out by the same group of academics who have regularly argued in favour of the natural origin theory.

However, not all of these deaths are primarily caused by the virus. 

Separate data shows that Covid is the underlying cause in only six in 10 deaths posted to the Government dashboard.

A Covid infection can also worsen the condition of those already unwell, especially heart and breathing problem sufferers.

The two days of data available since the spike last week show that daily deaths dramatically fell by 57 per cent within 48 hours. Meanwhile, hospitalisations have been falling for two weeks. 

Meaghan Kall, an epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency, said it is too soon to know for certain what caused the spike.

But high prevalence of the virus — with one in 17 people in England thought to be infected at the time — coupled with the heatwave, could be to blame.

‘The curious question is what fraction is excess heatwave deaths, versus Covid, or potentially a combination of the two with the heat exacerbating severe Covid disease,’ she wrote on Twitter.

Hot weather can cause dehydration, which causes blood to thicken. It also lowers blood pressure, making it harder to push blood around the body. This can lead to blood clots and strokes.

And overheating can make symptoms worse for those with heart and breathing problems — which can become fatal.

There is also a higher risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, especially if exercising outdoors when it’s hot. This is caused by not drinking enough and losing fluids through sweat.

Older people, those living on their own or in care home and sufferers of long-term conditions are the most at risk. 

Those confined to bed, with pre-existing conditions such as respiratory disease and heart problems are most at risk.

Professor Hunter told MailOnline that heatwaves can kill ‘sometimes sadly in very large numbers’.

Some of the increase in Covid deaths ‘will have nothing to do with’ being infected with Covid, while other fatalities will be among infected people who ‘without the heatwave, would have survived’, he said.

Professor Hunter added: ‘Some may have died because the fact that they had Covid meant that they were more socially isolated than usual and so at greater risk from the heatwave. 

‘All of these factors probably play a role and we may never know for certain, how many of these excess deaths were due to each of these reasons.’

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, told MailOnline that the heatwave could have ‘exacerbated the effects of Covid infection’.

However, he said it is ‘always difficult to disentangle data on deaths’ due to how it is collected.

Professor Young said: ‘This spike of Covid deaths is an obvious reflection of the very high levels of infection we have been experiencing over recent weeks. 

‘It’s been estimated that around 70 per cent of these deaths are not directly due to Covid but are recorded as incidental infections as people are being tested on admission to hospital. 

‘It could be that the heatwave exacerbated the effects of covid infection, particularly in people with underlying health conditions.’

However, Dr David Strain, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter, told MailOnline that the high death count is ‘unlikely to be directly attributable to the hottest day of the year’.

The day a death is registered usually ‘reflects the activities of the previous two or three days rather than what was going on on that particular day’, he said.

So the fatalities registered on Tuesday July 19 ‘are likely to be the ones occurring over the weekend’, he said.

Dr Strain added: ‘I suspect that this is just a representation of the impact of the BA.5 variant which we know is returning to the lungs in a similar way to the Delta variant was and moving away from the upper airways where BA.2 was mostly active.’

He said despite nine in 10 people in the UK bein double-jabbed, which reduces the risk of severe disease and death from Covid, it is not enough to ‘prevent peaks like this from occurring’.

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