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COVID-19: Record 4.9 million people in UK had coronavirus in week to 26 March, ONS says

A record number of people in the UK are estimated to have COVID-19 in the week leading up to 26 March, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows.

It said that 4.9 million people in the UK are estimated to have had the virus, up from 4.3 million in the previous week.

In England, around one in 13 people were likely to test positive for COVID last week, or 4.1 million people – up from one in 16, or 3.5 million people, in the week to 19 March.

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In Wales, the estimate is up from 192,900 people, or one in 16, to 212,000 people, or one in 14.

Both England and Wales are now recording record infection levels.

The latest data also shows that the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 has continued to increase across all regions of England.

Infection levels are highest in South West England, with one in 11 people estimated to have had the virus last week, followed by South East England (one in 12) and London (one in 13).

Prevalence remains highest among children between age two and school year 6, with one in 11 likely to have had COVID-19 last week.

But infections are now at record levels among people aged 35 to 49, 50 to 69, and 70 and over.

The latest ONS data also shows that hospitalisations increased in England in the week ending 27 March.

Hospital admissions increased in those aged 45 years and over but decreased or remained similar in all other age groups, the data showed.

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Situation in Scotland and Northern Ireland is ‘uncertain’

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the ONS has said that the trend in positive cases is “uncertain”.

Some 451,200 people were estimated to have had the virus in Scotland last week, or around one in 12.

This is down from 473,800 people, or one in 11, on the previous week.

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In Northern Ireland, 123,000 people were likely to have had COVID-19 last week, or one in 15 people: up from 108,700, or one in 17 people.

Both nations are slightly below their recent record infection levels.

England’s COVID R number falls

Despite the high number of COVID infections being recorded, England’s R number has fallen to between 1.1 and 1.2, the UK Health Security Agency said.

This means that for every 10 people infected, they will on average infect between 11 and 12 other people.

Last week, the range sat between 1.1 and 1.4.

Senior statistician for the ONS COVID-19 infection survey, Kara Steel said the “rapid rise” in cases is being fuelled by the growth of the Omicron BA.2 variant across the UK.

“Infection levels remain high, with the highest levels recorded in our survey seen in England and Wales and notable increases among older age groups,” she added.

The latest figures come as the free COVID testing comes to an end for the majority of people in England.

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