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New figures have shown coronavirus infections and hospitalisations from the illness continued to rise across the UK last week.
The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that around 1 in 75 people in England had the virus last week, up from 1 in 95 the week before.
The analysis suggests more that 740,000 people in England were testing positive in the week ending 17 July, with almost all infections caused by the Delta variant of the virus.
The stats show rising cases in other parts of the UK, with 1 in 80 people in Scotland infected, compared to 1 in 90 the previous week, while 1 in 210 people in Wales were estimated to have the virus, up from to 1 in 360 previously.
It means across the UK an estimated 832,100 were infected with the virus during the week ending 17 July.
According to the ONS, the surge in cases has also led to a 29% increase in hospital admissions to 5.88 per 100,000 people in the week ending 18 July – an increase of more than three times that seen four weeks ago.
The latest data comes after Environment Secretary George Eustice defended the continued use of the self-isolation scheme to halt infection rates, despite concerns that hundreds of thousands of people would continue being ‘pinged’ in the coming weeks.
Speaking to Sky News on Friday, Eustice said the coronavirus situation in England would “absolutely” get worse before it got better.
“It is likely to because hospitalisations do follow the infection rate by two to three weeks and so that’s why we’re doing this.
“I know its frustrating for everybody but we do want to try to just dampen the curve of this infections until it turns and things start to go in the other direction, and then of course we can move to a different system for everyone.”
Commenting on the figures, ONS senior statistician Kara Steel, said: “Infections continue to increase across the UK, with rates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland similar to those seen in February.
“With infection rates rising, keeping a close eye on the data is crucial to see how the vaccination programmes are protecting many from infection and developing severe symptoms.
“Continuing to monitor the infection rates is crucial going forward, particularly as we have not yet seen the impact of the easing of restrictions in our data.”
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