UK Covid cases surge amid fears over ‘Kraken’ variant: one in 20 people infected over Christmas, NHS battles ‘twindemic’ after cases double in December

Experts believe that one in twenty people were infected with Covid during the Christmas holiday.

Cases are estimated to have doubled during December, just as the XBB.1.5 ‘Kraken’ version started hitting the UK. Analysts say about 3 million people had the virus during the week of the festivities, levels seen during the summer when experts wanted a return to pandemic-era restrictions such as masks.

Experts fear the strain, which is believed to be the most contagious yet, will intensify Britain’s winter wave and put the sick NHS under even greater strain in the coming weeks.

The worst influenza outbreak in a decade is already straining the sick healthcare system. Winter pressures have led to renewed calls for a return to measures to protect the NHS.

Cases are estimated to have doubled during December, just as the XBB.1.5 ‘Kraken’ version started hitting the UK. Analysts say nearly three million people had the virus over the festive week

The alarming estimate comes from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which tracks the spread of the virus in the UK.

Predictions are based on random testing of thousands of people, giving analysts massive data on a national basis.

Michelle Bowen, head of health surveillance dissemination and strategy at the ONS, said: ‘Infections have increased across the UK.

‘In England, Wales and Scotland, cases are the highest they have been since July 2022, and the highest they have been since March 2022 in Northern Ireland.

In English regions, infections have increased in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, the East Midlands, the East of England, the South East and the South West. Cases have also increased from age 2 to school year 6, and among those age 50 and older.

‘We will continue to monitor the data closely.’

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Graph shows weekly hospital admissions per 100,000 people for Covid (red) and flu (blue).  Monitoring figures from the UK's Health Protection Agency show that Covid penetration is felt to be between 12 and 11 per 100,000 people, with penetration falling to 8 per 100,000 in the week to 1 January

Graph shows weekly hospital admissions per 100,000 people for Covid (red) and flu (blue). Monitoring figures from the UK’s Health Protection Agency show that Covid penetration is felt to be between 12 and 11 per 100,000 people, with penetration falling to 8 per 100,000 in the week to 1 January

NHS figures show an average of 995 people infected with Covid were admitted to hospitals across England on 2 January.  Figures show the average number of people seeking NHS care due to the virus peaked on 23 December (1,154) and has been trending downwards since

NHS figures show an average of 995 people infected with Covid were admitted to hospitals across England on 2 January. Figures show the average number of people seeking NHS care due to the virus peaked on 23 December (1,154) and has been trending downwards since

Figures from the Sanger Institute, one of the UK's largest Covid surveillance centres, show that 4 per cent of cases in the week to 17 December were due to XBB.1.5 (shown in purple, lower right corner)

Figures from the Sanger Institute, one of the UK’s largest Covid surveillance centres, show that 4 per cent of cases in the week to 17 December were due to XBB.1.5 (shown in purple, lower right corner)

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