New variants spark increase in Covid cases ending weeks of decline
Covid-19 infections have risen for the first time in two months, with the jump likely to have been caused by increases in cases compatible with the original Omicron variant BA.1 and the newer variants BA.4 and BA.5, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
All four UK nations have seen a rise in infections, though the ONS describes the trend in Wales and Scotland as “uncertain”.
In Wales, the estimated number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in the week ending 2 June was 40,500 equating to 1.33% of the population or around 1 in 75 people.
The ONS study for the previous seven days estimated 39,600 had the virus.
The increase in the number of cases comes after a fall in the number of infections recorded over the previous seven weeks.
Scotland has the highest rate of infection in the UK with 124,100 testing positive for the virus or around 1 in 40 people up from 105,900 estimated cases over the week ending 28 May.
In England, the estimated number of people testing positive increased from 784,100 to 797,500 around 1 in 70 people and in Northern Ireland the number of cases went up from 24,300 to 27,700, or around 1 in 65 people.
Omicron BA.2 wave
The It is the first time total infections have risen week-on-week since the end of March, when the number hit a record 4.9 million across the UK at the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave.
Separate figures also suggest the recent drop in the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 may also have come to a halt.
“Across all four UK countries, the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 compatible with Omicron variants BA.1, BA.4 and BA.5 increased in the week ending June 2 2022,” the ONS said.
Omicron BA.1 is the original variant of Omicron that caused a surge in infections across in December and early January.
BA.4 and BA.5 are newer variants that were recently classified by the UK Health Security Agency as “variants of concern”, after analysis found both were likely to have a “growth advantage” over BA.2, which is still the dominant strain in the country.
Initial findings suggest BA.4 and BA.5 have a degree of “immune escape” – meaning the immune system can no longer recognise or fight a virus – which is likely to contribute to their growth advantage over BA.2, the UKHSA said.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.