Covid infection rate remains stable in Wigan borough, latest official figures reveal
Total infections for the whole of the UK were up for the fifth week in a row, but there is fresh evidence the current rise is slowing down.
Wigan and St Helens is in line with the national average in England of one in 40 people testing positive for covid, or 2.4 per cent.
However levels continue to vary across different regions and age groups in England, though rates have jumped among over-70s.
An estimated 1.6 million people in private households in the UK were likely to have Covid-19 in the week ending February 28, up three per cent from 1.5 million the previous week, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This was the smallest week-on-week percentage increase since the latest rise in infections began at the end of January.
If the spread of the virus is slowing down, it could mean infections will peak at around half the level reached during the Christmas 2022 wave, when the total climbed to just under three million.
The current increase is being driven by the Omicron variant BA.2.75, which now accounts for more than eight in 10 sequenced infections in the UK.
Michelle Bowen, ONS head of health surveillance, said the new figures pointed to an “uncertain picture across much of the UK”, with only Scotland showing a clear increase in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19.
She added: “Infections continue to vary across regions and age groups in England. Though many age groups have uncertain trends, rates are increasing in the over-70s.”
Covid-19 is least prevalent in Northern Ireland, where one in 75 people is estimated to have the virus.
The estimate for Wales is one in 45, while for England and Scotland it is one in 40.
Around 2.8 per cent of over-70s in England are estimated to have the virus, up week-on-week from 2.4 per cent and the highest percentage of any age group.
Among children in school years 7 to 11, the rate has dropped from 2.2 to 1.5 per cent.
The ONS infection survey is the most reliable measure of the prevalence of Covid-19 and is based on a sample of swab tests from households across the country.
However, the survey will come to a halt at the end of this month.
Data collection will be “paused” from March 31 with any new surveys announced “in due course”, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said last week.
The decision brings to an end a survey that has run continuously for nearly three years and which has been recognised worldwide as the “gold standard” for measuring levels of coronavirus among the population.
Besides providing vital data on the scale and duration of each wave of the virus, the survey has supplied crucial information on the emergence of new variants, antibody levels and long Covid.
Professor Steven Riley, UKHSA director general of data, acknowledged the survey has been an “important tool” in helping understand coronavirus, adding: “We will continue to ensure our surveillance activities remain proportionate and cost-effective with the move to living with Covid-19.
“We remain committed to monitoring the threat posed by Covid-19 through our range of surveillance systems and genomics capabilities, which report on infection rates, hospitalisations and the risks posed by new variants.”