The number of hospital patients in England testing positive for Covid-19 is showing early signs of falling, suggesting the latest wave of infections may have peaked.
A total of 12,529 people with coronavirus were in hospital on July 25, down 11% on the previous week.
It is the sixth day in a row the week-on-week change has shown a drop.
Patient numbers had been climbing through much of June and the first half of July, driven by the current wave of Covid-19 infections.
But the latest figures, from NHS England, show this rise appears to have come to a halt after peaking at 14,044 on July 18.
This is slightly below the peaks reached during the two waves of infection earlier in the year.
The current wave is being driven by the coronavirus subvariants Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, which are more transmissible than previous strains.
Infection levels in England were still rising in mid-July, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
More recent estimates are due to be published on Friday and may show infections have started to level off.
Hospital numbers during each of this year’s waves have never come close to matching the sort of figures seen in the pre-vaccine stage of the pandemic.
The recent peak of 14,044 patients is less than half of the 34,336 reached in January 2021, during the Alpha wave of infections.
High levels of Covid antibodies among the population – either from vaccination or previous infection – mean the number of people seriously ill or dying from the virus remains low.
Separate ONS figures published on Tuesday show deaths involving coronavirus registered each week in England and Wales have risen for the fourth week in a row – but levels are still well below those reached in the earlier waves of the virus.
A total of 585 deaths registered in the seven days to July 15 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.
This is up 38% on the previous week and is the highest number since the seven days to May 13.
The upwards trend in death registrations reflects the recent rise in Covid-19 infections, but it is likely to be several weeks before the numbers peak and level off.
This is because the trend in death figures always lags behind the equivalent trend in infections and hospital cases, due to the length of time between someone catching the virus and becoming seriously ill, plus the time it takes deaths to be reported and registered.
During the two waves earlier this year, weekly deaths in England and Wales peaked between 1,000 and 1,500.
This is well below the peak seen during the Alpha wave in January 2021, when the weekly total reached nearly 8,500.
Overall, a total of 201,680 people in the UK have now had coronavirus recorded on their death certificate since the pandemic began, the ONS said.
This includes all instances where Covid-19 has been mentioned on a certificate, either as a main cause of death or a contributory factor.