England's COVID-19 prevalence hits new high as Omicron spreads - ONS

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Customers are seen inside a private COVID-19 testing clinic in a busy shopping area, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London

LONDON (Reuters) -Around 1.2 million people in England were likely infected with COVID-19 last week, representing 1 in 45 of the population and a new pandemic record as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly, official estimates showed on Thursday.

London was worst hit with an estimated 1 in 30 people infected with the coronavirus last week, according to the figures from the Office for National Statistics.

In the previous two weeks, an estimated 1 in 60 people in England were infected. The records date back to May 2020, so do not cover the peak of the initial wave of the pandemic.

Omicron is likely by now the dominant variant circulating in England, the analysis suggested.

Modelling from the ONS showed Omicron, as of Dec. 16, had already matched the existing Delta variant in terms of the percentage of positive cases in England.

The ONS said the percentage of cases compatible with Omicron had increased in all regions apart from the northeast.

In Scotland, 1 in 80 people were estimated to be infected with COVID-19, a decrease from 1 in 70 the previous week.

The estimates for Wales and Northern Ireland were unchanged at 1 in 50 and 1 in 55.

Britain reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for the first time on Wednesday.

The rapid spread of Omicron has driven a surge in cases in the last seven days, with the total rising by 643,219, or 59%, according to government data.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce, Editing by Paul Sandle and Nick Macfie)

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