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COVID-19 infections increased in England, trends were uncertain in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

COVID-19 infections increased in England in the week ending 13 March 2023, and the trends were uncertain in Wales and Scotland. In the week ending 7 March 2023, infection trends were uncertain in Northern Ireland.

The estimated percentage of people living in private households (those not in care homes or other communal establishments) testing positive for COVID-19 was:

  • 2.66% in England (1 in 40 people)

  • 2.41% in Wales (1 in 40 people)

  • 1.42% in Northern Ireland (1 in 70 people)

  • 2.59% in Scotland (1 in 40 people)

The infection rate increased in the North West, East Midlands and South East, and trends were uncertain in all other regions in the week ending 13 March 2023. In the same week, COVID-19 infections increased for age groups from age 2 years to school Year 11, and those aged 50 years and over; the trends were uncertain for the remaining age groups.

The overall hospital admission rate of patients with confirmed COVID-19 in England increased slightly to 10.62 per 100,000 people in the week ending 19 March 2023. In the same week, the intensive care unit (ICU) and high dependency unit (HDU) admission rate remained low at 0.28 per 100,000 people.

In the UK, there were 619 deaths involving COVID-19 registered in the week ending 17 March 2023. This is an increase from 605 in the previous week. In the same week, deaths involving COVID-19 accounted for 4.5% of all deaths in the UK, compared with 4.6% in the previous week.

In England, there were 512 deaths involving COVID-19 registered in the week ending 17 March 2023, which is a decrease from 521 in the previous week.

The infections data are from the final publication of the weekly Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey. As the UK Health Security Agency works to confirm its approach to surveillance, the ONS plans to work with existing participants to continue gathering valuable insight into the experiences of COVID-19, long COVID and other respiratory infections, details of which will be announced in due course. We thank our participants for their continued support.

In the UK, the proportion of adults with antibodies at or above the 179 ng/ml and 800 ng/ml level remained high. An estimated 77.7% of adults in England, 79.5% in Wales, 74.5% in Northern Ireland and 79.8% in Scotland had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in the week beginning 13 February 2023, at or above the higher level of 800 ng/ml.

During the autumn booster vaccine campaign, over 15 million people aged 50 years and over had received a booster by 20 March 2023. Adults aged 50 to 54 years are most likely to have received a vaccine in the last three months, while the majority of those in the oldest age groups were last vaccinated three to six months ago now (19 March 2023).

Among people aged 18 and over, 75.8% had received at least three COVID-19 vaccinations as of 2 March 2023. Of those who had received three doses and were eligible, 77.7% had continued to their fourth vaccination.

The proportion of patients in hospital in England with confirmed COVID-19 who were being treated primarily for COVID-19 was 33% in February 2023, down from a peak of around 75% between June and December 2021. It was lowest in London (16%) and highest in the South West (54%).

The proportion of deaths involving COVID-19, where COVID-19 was the underlying cause, decreased between January and February 2023 in England (from 70.5% to 66.9%) and in Wales (from 72.2% to 71.6%). In February 2023, COVID-19 was the 8th leading cause of death in England and 12th leading cause of death in Wales.

Overall, there were an estimated 3.2 million visits to the UK by overseas residents in both October and November 2022. In November 2022, visits to the UK were 2% higher than that of the last comparable month since the pandemic began (3.1 million visits in November 2019). This is the first time since the beginning of COVID-19 that visits to the UK have been above pre-pandemic levels.

Vaccine effectiveness is the reduction in risk due to receiving a vaccine. Vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation for COVID-19 was 52.2% for a first dose (between 21 March 2021 to 20 March 2022). Vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation for COVID-19 was 55.7% for the second dose, and 77.6% for the third dose, respectively. Vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 mortality was 58.7% for a first dose, 88.6% for a second dose and 93.2% for a third dose.

Overview of the pandemic

Since COVID-19 reached the UK in early 2020, more than 500 million tests have been reported, more than 9 in every 10 people aged 12 years and over have received at least two vaccinations, and more than 150,000 people have died. 

The ONS Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, run independently of government testing, has conducted tests on hundreds of thousands of weekly samples to provide the best estimate of the scale of the pandemic, with a peak of 1 in 13 people infected in England in March 2022.  

How infections, hospitalisations and deaths have changed during the pandemic

Estimated coronavirus (COVID-19) positivity rates, overall hospital admissions, intensive care unit (ICU) and high dependency unit (HDU) admissions, and number of deaths, England, 1 August 2020 to 19 March 2023

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Vaccines have effectively reduced the impact of infections on hospitalisations and deaths, but emerging variants have been much more transmissible. The hospital admission rate and number of deaths involving COVID-19 are lower now than earlier in the pandemic, despite similar, or higher, infection levels.

We are continuing to learn more about the impact of long COVID, which was affecting an estimated 1.9 million people (2.9% of the population) in the UK as of 5 March 2023. 

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