Coronavirus infections increased in England and Northern Ireland over the last two weeks, while remaining steady in Wales and decreasing in Scotland, new data suggests.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey sets out that it has identified a very small number of infections consistent with the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) among survey participants.
While these numbers are not yet sufficient to produce estimates, the ONS will continue to monitor the variant and report estimates if it becomes more prevalent in the population.
However, in the infection survey published last Friday, the ONS said it had not identified any infections compatible with Omicron.
Around 891,500 people in England had Covid – the equivalent of around one in 60 people – in the week ending December 1, according to ONS estimates.
However, the trend has been described as uncertain in the week ending December 1.
At the peak of the second wave in early January, around one in 50 people in England were estimated to have the virus, leading to a surge in hospital admissions and deaths, along with a nationwide lockdown.
In Northern Ireland it is estimated that 39,300 people had the virus in the week ending December 1, equating to around one in 45 people.
The survey estimates that in Wales, the percentage of people testing positive for Covid appeared stable over the most recent three weeks.
According to the figures 60,300 people in the country had the virus – around one in 50 in the week ending December 1.
Meanwhile, in Scotland the percentage of people testing positive fell in the week ending December 2 2021.
The ONS estimates that 65,200 people in Scotland had Covid, equating to around one in 80 people.
This is down from last week’s estimate of around one in 65 people.
Estimating infection rates for different age groups in England, the ONS said the percentage of people testing positive for Covid increased in school year 7 to school year 11, and for those aged 25 to 49 years.
According to the figures, the percentage of people testing positive also rose for those aged two up to school year 6 in the two weeks up to December 1.
In the week ending December 1, the percentage testing positive fell for those aged 50 and over.
However, according to the ONS the trend was uncertain for those in the age group from school year 12 to those aged 24.
“The percentage of people testing positive continued to fluctuate across regions in England,” the ONS said.
It also increased in the North-east in the two weeks up to December 1.
In the week ending December 1, the percentage of people testing positive decreased in the East Midlands, the West Midlands and the East of England.
All figures are for people in private households and do not include hospitals, care homes and other settings.
The number of Covid-19 infections in the UK, which is estimated every week by the ONS, is not the same as the number of new cases of coronavirus, which are reported daily by the Government.
The number of infections provides a snapshot of the prevalence of Covid-19 within the entire community population of the UK.
It estimates the percentage of people who are likely to test positive at any one point in time – regardless of when they caught the virus, how long they have had it, and whether they have symptoms.
It is based on a sample of swab tests collected from households across the UK.
By contrast, the number of cases of Covid-19 reported each day by the Government includes only those people who have newly tested positive for the virus.
This is therefore affected by how many people are coming forward for tests, or who are taking a test because they know they have coronavirus symptoms.