UK is far from done with COVID, but records 2.3 million cases in a week

London: Britain’s COVID-19 infections are on the rise, with Omicron subvariants sparking new outbreaks across the country and raising concerns that the latest wave could disrupt health systems and businesses.

The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 is estimated to be 2.3 million in the week to June 24, 32 percent more than the week before, according to data released Friday by the Office for National Statistics. The news of a rise in cases across the country comes a day after regulators reported hospital admissions in England had risen again, with intensive care cases spreading among older age groups.

A quiet Regent Street, London's main shopping street on Wednesdays.  The UK is struggling to shake off the lingering effects of COVID.

A quiet Regent Street, London’s main shopping street on Wednesdays. The UK is struggling to shake off the lingering effects of COVID.Credit:Bloomberg

The rise in hospital admissions is still well below previous waves, and widespread vaccination has made the pandemic much less deadly. Still, the latest surge underscores how the pandemic is still taking its toll, even in one of the most vaccinated places in the world.

“The constant bombardment of waves that we see is causing a clinical impact that should not be underestimated,” said Stephen Griffin, associate professor at the School of Medicine, University of Leeds.

The UK is not alone with the coronavirus rearing its head in multiple countries in Europe, despite the northern summer – including Germany, France and Italy – with renewed high-speed transmissions.

New outbreaks are causing increasing absences from the workplace and exacerbating labor shortages. Last week, German airline Lufthansa said it would cancel 3,100 flights, adding to the travel chaos in Europe as the holiday season kicks in.

Britain’s latest wave is fueled by two highly contagious Omicron sub-variants – BA.4 and BA.5 – which now account for more than half of Britain’s new COVID cases, a government report showed last week. According to the ONS, the coronavirus is estimated to infect every 1 in 30 people in England and Wales, every 1 in 25 people in Northern Ireland and every 1 in 18 people in Scotland.

The increase in the prevalence of these subvariants has also led to an increase in hospitalizations and ICU admissions in some other countries, the World Health Organization said in a report last week. Still, there’s currently no evidence they cause more serious illness than previous Omicron variants, health officials said.