Covid-19 infections in the UK have jumped by nearly 800,000 in a week, with parts of the country approaching record levels seen in the spring.
The number of hospitals also continues to increase, driven by the spread of the latest omicron BA.4 and BA.5 coronavirus subvariants.
A total of 3.5million people in private households are estimated to have had Covid-19 in the past week, up 29% from 2.7million the previous week, according to the Office for National Statistics ( NSO).
This is the highest estimate of the total number of infections since mid-April, but it remains below the record 4.9 million recorded at the peak of the omicron BA.2 wave in late March.
The rapid rise in the number of cases in the current wave is straining the NHS as some people are ‘still not responding properly to vaccines’, a health expert has warned.
Dr Stephen Griffin, a virologist at the University of Leeds, told the BBC the NHS is “under strain” as immunity begins to decline from the initial vaccination campaign and omicron is also “extremely good” to avoid the immunity provided by antibodies.
“It’s a complicated picture and different variants have evolved its transmissibility and severity,” he told the Today programme.
“I think we can see that in the UK the NHS is under pressure with ambulance wait times and all. This wave of the virus is not helping, it’s still causing hospitalizations and deaths.
“We unfortunately don’t have a perfectly protected population. Many people still don’t respond well to vaccines, our protection is waning, and there doesn’t seem to be a long-term plan for these vaccines.”