The number of people in hospital in England with Covid-19 has jumped to its highest level in almost two months, with admissions once again running above those for people with the flu.
A total of 8,643 patients in hospital had tested positive for coronavirus on 21 December, a rise of 29 per cent on the previous week, NHS data shows.
Flu admissions overtook Covid admissions earlier in December, but have now slipped behind – though both sets of rates are continuing to increase week-on-week.
Dr Mary Ramsay, director of public health programmes at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “We are seeing a rise in cases and hospital admissions for both flu and Covid-19 as people continue to mix indoors this winter.
“Both Covid-19 and flu can cause severe illness or even death for those most vulnerable in our communities, and so it is also important to avoid contact with other people if you are unwell in order to help stop infections spreading over the Christmas and new year period.”
Around two-thirds of patients in hospital who test positive for Covid-19 are being treated primarily for something else.
But they need to be isolated from people who do not have the virus, putting extra demands on staff already facing pressures from increased demand, delays in discharging medically fit patients, and the spread of other winter infections.
Cases of infections related to the Strep A bacteria, such as scarlet fever, have also been causing concern. Dr Colin Brown, the deputy director at UKHSA, sought to reassure parents after 24 children were reported to have died from a serious form of Strep A infection in recent months.
“I understand how this large rise in scarlet fever and ‘strep throat’ may be concerning to parents, however the condition can be easily treated with antibiotics and it is very rare that a child will go on to become more seriously ill,” he said, adding that parents should visit NHS.UK, contact 111 online or their GP surgery if their child has symptoms so they can be assessed for treatment.
Separate figures published on Thursday show that an average of 1,939 people with flu were in hospital in England each day last week, up 67 per cent on 1,162 the previous week.
Around one in five people in England in the oldest age groups have yet to receive a fresh booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to the latest UKHSA data.
Some 81.6 per cent of people aged 80 and over are likely to have had the jab, along with a similar proportion of 75 to 79-year-olds (81.9 per cent) and 70 to 74-year-olds (78.6 per cent).