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UK reaches record levels of COVID-19;  nearly 5 million people infected

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LONDON (AP) — The prevalence of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom has reached record highs, with around 1 in 13 people estimated to have been infected with the virus in the past week, according to the latest figures from the British agency. official statistics.

Some 4.9 million people are estimated to have contracted the coronavirus in the week ending March 26, up from 4.3 million recorded the previous week, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday. The latest push is driven by the more transmissible omicron variant BA.2, which is the dominant variant in the UK

Hospitalizations and death rates are rising again, although the number of people who have died with COVID-19 is still relatively low compared to earlier this year. Nonetheless, the latest estimates suggest the sharp rise in new infections since late February, when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted all remaining coronavirus restrictions in England, has continued into March.

The figures came the same day the government ended free rapid COVID-19 tests for most people in England, as part of Johnson’s ‘living with COVID’ plan. People who don’t have health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus must now pay for tests to find out if they are infected.

“The government’s ‘living with COVID’ strategy of removing all mitigation measures, isolation, free testing and a huge amount of our surveillance is just ignoring this virus in the future,” he said. said Stephen Griffin, associate professor at Leeds Medical College. school.

“Such uncontrolled prevalence endangers the protection offered by our vaccines,” he said. “Our vaccines are great, but they are not magic bullets and should not be left alone to bear the brunt of COVID.”

More than 67% of people aged 12 and over in the UK have been vaccinated and received their booster or third dose of the coronavirus vaccine. From Saturday, parents can also book a low-dose vaccine for children aged 5 to 12 in England.

James Naismith, professor of biology at the University of Oxford, said he believed that except for those completely protected or not susceptible to the virus, most people in the country would likely be infected with the variant. BA.2 by summer.

“It’s literally living with the virus by being infected with it,” he said.

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Follow all AP stories on the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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