Omicron sweeps through swathes of London's population

LONDON (Reuters) -One in 20 Londoners had COVID-19 last week and that could have risen to 1 in 10 by the start of this week, according to early modelled estimates that underlined the relentless advance of the Omicron variant.

Shoppers walk along Oxford Street, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain, December 23, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The Office for National Statistics published new estimates on Thursday that showed around 1 in 20 people in London had COVID-19 on Dec. 16, compared with 1 in 30 on Dec. 13.

Daily modelled estimates for the following days – subject to much greater uncertainty and prone to revision – suggested that may have risen to roughly 1 in 10 on Sunday.

The figures came a day after Britain recorded a record number of new coronavirus cases as the Omicron variant swept across the country, with the daily tally reaching 119,789 from 106,122 a day earlier.

The ONS estimates showed around 1 in 35 people in England – equivalent to 1.54 million people – were infected with COVID-19 during the six days to Dec. 19.

The early modelling of the subsequent days suggested that could have risen to more than 2 million people on Sunday, or around 1 in 25.

Prevalence increased across all parts of the United Kingdom the ONS said, with Scotland showing the lowest rate of infections at 1 in 65 people.

Many industries and transport networks are struggling with staff shortages as sick workers self-isolate, while hospitals in Britain have warned of the risk of an impact on patient safety.

Omicron’s rapid advance has driven a surge in cases in Britain over the last seven days, with the total rising by 678,165, government data showed on Thursday.

As the Conservative government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggles to limit the economic impact of the latest COVID-19 outbreak, it said on Wednesday it was reducing the legal self-isolation period in England to seven days from 10.

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