Covid-19 deaths at low level despite growing wave of infections

Covid-19 deaths in England and Wales remain at a low level, despite the latest wave of infections, new figures show.

There were 285 deaths registered in the week to June 24 where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is broadly unchanged on the previous two weeks, and is well below the 1,125 deaths registered in the peak week of the Omicron BA.2 wave of infections earlier in the year.

HEALTH Coronavirus Deaths
(PA Graphics)

The impact of the current surge in infections is not likely to become clear in the figures for a few more weeks, due to the time it takes for someone with the virus to become seriously ill.

The latest wave is being driven by the newer variants Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, which are more transmissible than other strains and are able to evade the immune protection built up by vaccines or previous infections.

There is “currently no evidence” that BA.4 and BA.5 cause more serious illness than older variants of the virus, according to the UK Health Security Agency.

This suggests the numbers of people dying from Covid-19 or needing treatment in intensive care are unlikely to reach the sort of levels seen during the first year of the pandemic.

But the growing prevalence of the virus is expected to lead to extra pressure on hospitals, which are already facing a record backlog of patients needing treatment, besides causing widespread workforce absences and disruption across the UK.

Infections in all four nations of the UK are rising, with levels in England back to where they were in late April.

The number of people in hospital in England who have tested positive for Covid-19 has climbed above 10,000 for the first time since April, reaching 10,658 on July 4, up 36% week-on-week.

This is around two thirds of the peak of 16,600 patients seen during the Omicron BA.2 wave.

In Wales, 575 patients with Covid-19 were recorded on June 30, up 53% from the previous week.

Infections in Wales have climbed to levels last seen at the end of April.