Covid infections hold falling in August throughout UK

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Covid infection levels have continued to fall across the UK in mid-August, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

One in 45 people tested positive, with Covid rates lowest in school-age children.

The ONS says it will "closely monitor" the numbers as children return to the classroom.

Booster jabs are being offered to the most vulnerable from early September, to help protection during winter.

The ONS estimates, for the week ending 16 August, are based on random tests on people in households across the UK whether or not they have symptoms.

From these tests, it says 1.4 million people would have tested positive for Covid that week – 2.2% of the population – a drop from 1.7 million the previous week.

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There were falls in Covid infections in all UK nations, all English regions and all age groups.

Only among 25-34 year olds was there uncertainty whether Covid was rising or falling.

It follows a rise in infections, caused by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants of coronavirus, in early July.

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The number of people dying with Covid or being admitted to hospital with the virus is also falling.

That has prompted changes to testing rules in England. From the end of August, most hospital patients and care home residents will only be offered tests if they have symptoms.

NHS and social care staff in England will also not be offered lateral flow tests unless they fall sick.

The government said this reflected the fact that cases had fallen and the spread of the virus had reduced.

The advice in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland differs – it is currently recommended that NHS staff take regular lateral flow tests even if they do not have symptoms.

A programme to offer Covid booster jabs, along with antiviral treatments, to millions of the most vulnerable from September is expected to help protect those at greatest risk.

The UK has recently approved a dual-strain Covid vaccine which will be part of that programme.

Across the UK, the ONS estimates Covid rates were:

  • one in 45 in England – down from one in 40 last week
  • one in 45 in Wales – down from one in 40 last week
  • one in 70 in Northern Ireland – down from one in 50 last week
  • one in 40 in Scotland – down from one in 30 last week

Sarah Crofts, head of analytical outputs for the ONS's Covid-19 infection survey, said: "Infections continue to head in the right direction across all of the UK and are now at levels similar to those last seen in mid-June.

"Rates remain lowest in school-aged children and we will closely monitor the data to see how the return of schools in September may affect this."

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