Coronavirus cases are ‘plateauing’ in London, the South East and East of England and ‘giving cause for optimism’, said health chiefs today.
Dr Susan Hopkins, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief medical adviser, said parts of the UK are seeing the number of infections flatten.
But she remained cautious, saying cases were still relatively high, with one in 15 people in England infected and one in 20 elsewhere in the UK, but that there was a ‘slow down’ in hospital admissions.
Other experts said they were hopeful about the coronavirus situation, while the Welsh Government began to ease restrictions.
Their wary approach came despite daily UK Covid cases plunging below 100,000 for the first time in weeks yesterday as infections fell for the ninth day in a row.
Another 99,652 positive tests were logged, according to Government dashboard data, marking a 44 per cent fall on the figure last week.
Covid cases are now falling in every region of England and all four home nations in another sign that the Omicron wave is on its way out.
Daily hospitalisations have also remained flat with the latest data showing 2,423 new admissions on January 10, down by less than a per cent on the previous week.
Dr Susan Hopkins (pictured above), the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief medical adviser, said parts of the UK are seeing the number of infections flatten
Daily UK Covid cases dropped below 100,000 for the first time in weeks yesterday as infections fell for the ninth day in a row
Daily hospital admissions have also remained flat with 2,423 new admissions on January 10, the latest date with data, which was down by less than a per cent on the previous week
Daily Covid deaths — which are a lagging indicator — have been creeping up for several weeks. Another 270 were registered today in a 17 per cent weekly rise
Dr Hopkins said: ‘We see that infections are plateauing in the community, which is good, in London and the south east and the east of England.
‘There are still risings, but much slower in the northern parts of the country.
‘All of that means we are seeing a slowdown in the number of admissions to hospital but they are slowing down rather than reversing at the moment, so there are still more than 2,000 admissions to hospital across the UK, and nearly 2,500 yesterday.’
She said hospitals had been able to discharge patients ‘faster’ due to Omicron being milder than previous coronavirus variants but that, with around 15,500 people in hospital last week, the NHS remains under ‘a lot of pressure’, with some trusts ‘unable to do much of their elective care’, a situation exacerbated by staff absences.
Prof Linda Bauld, a professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh and chief social policy adviser to the Scottish government, said Omicron cases in the UK appeared to be ‘stabilising’.
She told BBC Breakfast: ‘The cases, if we look at them, are going down by over 20%.
‘In fact, yesterday I think was the last day, the first day for a while we’ve had less than 100,000 cases so things seem to moving in the right direction.’
However, she cautioned the number of patients in hospitals was still ‘very high’.
Prof Linda Bauld (left), a professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said Omicron cases in the UK appeared to be ‘stabilising’, while Dr Chris Smith (right), a consultant virologist and lecturer based at Cambridge University, said current coronavirus data gives him ‘great cause for optimism’
She added: ‘I think we’ve got more data this week that suggests more optimism, and let’s hope, as we continue, that trajectory will be consistent and we can feel we’ve got through what’s been a really, really tough period.’
Dr Chris Smith, a consultant virologist and lecturer based at Cambridge University, said current coronavirus data gives him ‘great cause for optimism’.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘The number of people who are going into intensive care or are on mechanical ventilation beds is actually dropping. It has remained flat.’
He added that, because of vaccines and reinfections, around 96% of the country now have antibodies against the coronavirus, meaning the vast majority of people can better ‘fend off’ the disease.
Dr Smith said: ‘So we don’t see that strong connection of cases turning into consequences.’
Falling case numbers and a decline in the number of patients in critical care beds has meant Wales is to scale down from alert level two to zero over the coming weeks.
As a first step, the number of people who can be present at outdoor events in Wales has risen from 50 to 500 as of Saturday.
Meanwhile in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said restrictions on outdoor events will be lifted next Monday.
She added that all measures, including the closure of nightclubs, could be lifted from January 24.
And in Northern Ireland, First Minister Paul Givan said the Stormont Executive could begin lifting some coronavirus restrictions by next week.