Covid-19 CASES spiked 110 percent over Christmas to their highest levels since summer, new data reveals.
It comes as the NHS grapples with the worst flu season in a decade and delays in ambulance delivery to hospitals are at a record level.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has warned a new Omicron variant XXB. 15, nicknamed ‘Kraken,’ could be the most transmissible yet.
That’s 110 percent higher than the week until December 9, when there were about 1.4 million cases, and marks the highest total since mid-July.
Around one in 20 people in England caught it when families mixed indoors over the festive period, along with one in 18 in Wales, one in 16 in Northern Ireland and one in 25 in Scotland.
The rise in cases is adding further pressure to an already overwhelmed NHS, which is facing “one of its harshest winters” on record, chiefs have warned.
NHS Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Stephen Powis thanked staff “for all their hard work in caring and treating so many patients while dealing with record demand for services, including enormous pressure from flu and covid.”
While Omicron’s new sub-variant, XXB.1.5, has become dominant in parts of the US, it is estimated to account for around five per cent of UK cases at the moment.
Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said there is “no evidence” that the Kraken strain is more dangerous than other variants.
He added: “You might be able to escape the antibodies, but that’s not the only immunity we have.
“Our immune system is used to adapting to viruses.
“We’d better get used to new variants appearing, at least for the foreseeable future.
“Yes, they will lead to new waves of infection, but vaccination continues to prove to be a very effective weapon in protecting the most vulnerable from serious disease.”
Professor Powis echoed Professor Ball’s call for people to get vaccinated, urging the public to help ease the pressure on the health service.
He said: “It remains vital that people make the most of 111 online as always, and only use 999 in an emergency.
“It is also crucial that those who are eligible come forward for flu and covid vaccinations as soon as possible.”
New statistics released today show that in the week between Christmas and New Year there were 5,105 flu patients in general hospital beds, up 47 percent from 3,479 the week before.
Patients in intensive care beds with the flu also increased by 26 percent, which equates to 336 patients.
During the same week last year there were just 38 patients in general and acute care beds and two in critical care.
Meanwhile, the number of patients with COVID-19 in the hospital increased by almost 1,200 from the previous week, with an average of 9,390 hospitalized Covid patients each day.
NHS 111 answered the second most calls in a week, with 410,618 calls answered, up from 365,258 last week and 382,021 last year.
hospitals they generally remain overcrowded, with more than nine out of ten beds occupied.
The figures show that 12,809 daily beds are being occupied by patients who were medically fit to be discharged.
That’s a third more than last year, the NHS claims.
The data in the report also revealed the impact that the crisis is having on ambulance transfers.
On January 1, around 10,785 patients arrived by ambulance at hospitals in England.
Delays hit a new high, with more than a quarter (26 percent) of patients waiting more than an hour to be delivered to A&E teams and around four in 10 (44 percent) waiting for at least 30 minutes.
This compares with 10 percent waiting more than an hour at this time last year, while 23 percent waited at least half an hour.
Professor Powis said previously announced plans to safeguard the service would help the NHS continue to care for patients at an “incredibly challenging time”.
He said additional call handlers are in place and community services have been set up to help people get out of the hospital where possible.
“We are also continuing to make good progress to install the equivalent of 7,000 additional beds by March,” he added.
The latest NHS data comes after the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said last night that the number of flu patients in hospital had reached “highest level in a decade“.
Admissions stood at 8.3 per 100,000 inhabitants in the week ending January 1, down from 14.8 the previous week.
Amid soaring cases, doctors have asked eligible Britons to get covid and flu vaccinations.
The Sun has urged readers to ‘do double‘ in an attempt to protect against both viruses.
Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to a school in London, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “The NHS is obviously under enormous pressure as we recover from Covid and I have enormous admiration for all the people who are working incredibly hard at the NHS right now to help. help us get through that.”
He added that the government is supporting the health service with billions of pounds of additional funding.
“But particularly this winter, what we want to do is make sure we move people from hospitals to social care, to communities — that’s one of the most powerful ways that we can ease some of the pressures on departments of A&E and the ambulances that are waiting.” too long,” she added.
HOW TO GET JABS
WHO is eligible for Covid boosters and flu shots?
Everyone over 50 years of age, people with serious health problems, pregnant women, residents of residences, health and first-line care personnel. Also caregivers and anyone who lives with someone with a weakened immune system. Children ages two to 11 can receive a free flu shot.
WHEN can I get them?
Flu shots are once a year. Covid boosters must be given at least three months apart.
HOW do I book?
Visit www.nhs.uk, call 119 or contact your local pharmacy or doctor’s office. You do not need to wait for an invitation to book.
CAN I get both injections on the same day?
Yes, many NHS sites offer this, with one on each arm. Studies have shown that it is safe and effective to give the vaccines together.