ONS infection survey shows Omicron wave is falling rapidly in Wales

The number of people with Covid-19 in Wales has plummeted since January 6, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics.

Infection rates are now dropping as fast as they rose over Christmas and while Wales’ infection rate started leveling off after January 1, in England, rates continued to climb with nearly 6% of the population still testing positive for Covid-19 for the two- week period ending January 15.

The infection rate from the Office for National Statistics is based on random sampling of the population and is not affected by changes to testing rules – meaning it is now the most reliable guide to the spread of Covid in the UK.

The latest figures for the week to January 22 show almost one in 30 people had Covid in Wales – the same as in Scotland and lower than in England or Northern Ireland (both one-in-20). The ONS estimated that 99,500 people in Wales had Covid compared to 169,100 in the previous week.

Read more:Welsh Government changes rules on self-isolation for people with Covid

The headlines, which are based on swabs collected from randomly selected households, indicate the percentage of people testing positive for Covid increased rapidly in the run-up to Christmas, but slowed up during the first week of January and is now dropping dramatically.

The Omicron variant continues to be dominant across all UK countries, the ONS said.

According to the headline results on Wednesday, school age children in England are the only groups where infection rates have increased during the week ending January 22. The percentage of people testing positive decreased for all other age groups in the same week.

The ONS defines the period from December 20, 2021 as the “Omicron-dominant period”. Looking at the daily estimates in Wales from the beginning of December, it’s clear to see that the rapid rise in the run up to Christmas and over the New Year had peaked by January 2 and has continued to fall as quickly as it rose. As at January 15, the percentage of population testing positive for Covid-19 was falling to well below that on Christmas Day.

Covid-19 infections have decreased in all UK regions in the most recent week except in the South West where the percentage of people testing positive had decreased in the last two weeks, but the trend was uncertain in the most recent week, the ONS said.

Looking at how Wales compares to England, both nations experienced a similar surge in Covid infections over Christmas and New Year. It’s widely thought that the ONS data is a better way to compare case rates between the UK nations as it bypasses the different way England and Wales record data. For example Wales counts reinfections, while England does not. And Wales only uses a positive PCR test to record positive cases in the daily update while England includes LFT results.

The transmissibility of the Omicron variant has driven up infection rates in the last two months. During the Omicron-dominant period, the risk of reinfection was 16 times higher compared to the seven-month period from May 17 to December 19, 2021 when Delta was the main variant, the ONS said.

Even so, people who’ve been vaccinated are all less likely to test positive than people who’ve still not had their jabs. During the six months from July 2, 2020 to January 9, 2022, people who were unvaccinated were twice as likely to be reinfected than people who had their second vaccine 14 to 89 days ago, the latest ONS analysis suggested.

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