The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has become the dominant strain in recent weeks, fuelling the biggest surge in UK cases since the pandemic began.
Although the vaccination programme has reduced the number of Covid-19 hospital admissions, experts are warning that rising infections and staff sickness are overstretching hospital and ambulance services.
UK cases reached a record high on 4 January when 218,724 infections were reported.
The latest evidence suggests that while London may have already reached a peak, further regional peaks across the UK are still on the horizon.
Here’s everything you need to know about when Omicron will peak in the UK and where rates are falling.
When will Omicron peak in the UK?The total number of UK daily cases reached a pandemic record high on 4 January, when 218,724 infections were recorded.
Since then, the number of new daily cases being reported has dropped but remains high, with 141,472 cases recorded yesterday.
Covid-19 cases are falling highest amongst 18-35 year-olds, the data shows, but rising for those aged 35 and above and particularly in the over-75s.
Dr Claire Steves, scientist on the ZOE Covid Study app and reader at King’s College London said: “It’s good news that the number of daily new cases has slowed for now.
“However, it’s worrying to see cases increasing in the over 75 age group. This is the group we need to protect as they are the most likely to be hospitalised as a result of a Covid infection.”
The good news is that while cases are higher than they were during lockdown in January last year, hospitalisations have not followed the same surge.
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said that while there is no definite break between the number of Covid-19 infections and hospital admissions, the link between the number of cases and severe outcomes has been cut.
The statistician told BBC News that although hospital admissions in London seem to be stable, admissions are rising in other parts of the country.
EnglandExperts have suggested that London is “past the peak” of Omicron cases which are thought to have peaked in the capital during New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Official data on Sunday indicated that London recorded 20,853 cases in the past 24 hours, down from a peak of 33,136 on 29 December.
Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s regional director for London told Sky News: “We think we may have passed or are at the peak.”
He added: “Data from the ONS [Office for National Statistics] suggests that the peak may have occurred at or just about New Year period and we’re seeing reductions in overall case rates across the city and the prevalence of infections within the community.”
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, statistician at the University of Cambridge agreed, telling Times Radio: “Hospitalisations may have also started to drop in London, but they’re not going to go fast and I think that’s the same for everywhere else.” The capital is thought to be up to three weeks ahead of the rest of the UK.
The North East and North West of England are now thought to have replaced London as the epicentre of Omicron in England, with the regions reporting huge spikes in Covid cases over the past few days.
In the North West, several hospital trusts launched critical incidents due to staffing shortages, while North West Ambulance Service said on Friday that it has been under “extreme pressure” with absences of up to 25 per cent.
Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M) which advises the Government also urges that hospital admissions are also rising in the Midlands and which he described as “a worry”.
New cases in England reached 152,306 on 6 January and have since dropped to 121,288 daily cases by 9 January.
ScotlandAccording to UK government data, Scotland had one of the highest rates of Covid infection in the UK in the last week of the year – overtaking the rate of infection in England.
According to a Scottish Government report, Scotland could reach its Omicron peak this week. On the latest modelling of the pandemic, the peak is expected to reach around 70,000 on Thursday or Friday this week before waning to around 20,000 by the end of the month.
According to the ONS, 1 in 20 people are infected with the virus in Scotland, which resembles the rate of many English regions outside London.
The anticipated peak comes earlier than Health Secretary Humza Yousaf’s and Professor national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch’s predictions and who claimed the Omicron “tsunami” would not peak until late January or early February.
Professor James Chalmers, a respiratory research expert at the University of Dundee’s School of Medicine, said the current wave was still at a “relatively early stage”.
He told the BBC: “We can expect this month to see a peak in the number of cases, and the number of hospitalisations to peak around the same time as they did last year, which is towards the end of January.
“So although it feels like there is a huge number of cases in Scotland at the moment, and hospitalisations have doubled in the course of the week, we’re still at a relatively early stage of this.
“We’ve got probably a week to 10 days of case growth and then a couple of weeks of increases in hospitalisations still to get through.”
Scotland recorded 7,487 new cases on 9 January.
Northern IrelandNorthern Ireland is expected to reach its peak of Covid-19 cases over the next couple of weeks, the Chief Medical Officer has warned.
Highlighting changes to testing and the scrapping of confirmatory PCR tests, Sir Michael McBride told BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme: “I think the true peak we’re likely to see in the next couple of weeks, the next one-two weeks”, adding “I think the numbers will be much higher than we’re actually reporting and are much higher than we’re currently reporting.
He went on to stress the importance of reporting positive lateral flow tests as testing is “increasingly becom[ing] a less reliable indicator” of how extensive the epidemic in this wave is.
He added: “It’s important to bear in mind that hospital pressures continue to increase and we will see pressures there peak towards the latter end of January and into early February.
“There is a long and difficult time ahead for our health service and we can all play our part by getting our vaccine, getting our booster and protecting the health service.”
More than 7,000 further confirmed cases of the virus were notified over the weekend.
A further seven deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 were also notified.
WalesThe latest figures in Wales, show there are more than 2,300 cases per 100,000 people across Wales.
Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford told a press conference on Friday how the Omicron “storm” had hit Wales, and previous waves of coronavirus across the country “are nothing compared to the size and speed of this Omicron wave”.
He continued: “Unlike previous waves, which have lasted many months, we believe this one will be short-lived.
“This is because of the speed Omicron is moving at. We haven’t reached the peak of this wave yet. This could be another 10 to 14 days away.”
Official data reveals that Wales recorded 8,923 new cases on 9 January.
Drakeford added that cases are concentrated within the 20 to 40-year-olds but that cases are also rising amongst older age groups.
He said that 994 people being treated with coronavirus in Welsh hospitals – a rise of 43 per cent compared to last week and the highest number since last March.