Omicron bounces back

January 27, 2022

This article has not been updated recently

According to ZOE COVID Study incidence figures, in total there are currently 159,486 new daily symptomatic cases of COVID in the UK on average, based on PCR and LF test data from up to three days ago [*]. An increase of 10% from 144,527 reported last week (Graph 1). 

In the vaccinated population (at least two doses), there are currently 54,992 new daily symptomatic cases in the UK. An increase of 2% from 53,703 new daily cases reported last week (Graph 2).

The UK R value is estimated to be around 1.0 and regional R values are; England, 1.0, Wales, 0.9, Scotland, 1.0. (Table 1). 

In terms of prevalence, on average 1 in 30 people in the UK currently have symptomatic COVID. In the regions, England, 1 in 29. Wales, 1 in 38. Scotland, 1 in 41. (Table 1).

New daily symptomatic cases have bounced back and are rising in all regions (Graph 3).

The recent uptick in children aged  0-18 reported last week has accelerated, to its highest levels. Cases are spilling over in the 35-55 age group, where  cases are now rising, confirming a trend of household transmission between generations that has been seen throughout the COVID pandemic. Cases have stopped falling in all other age groups (Graph 4).

According to the data, ZOE estimates that 40% of people experiencing new “cold-like“ symptoms are likely to have symptomatic COVID-19, meaning any new ‘cold-like’ symptoms are now again slightly more likely to be a cold than COVID. (Graph 5).

According to the ZOE COVID Study, reinfection rates of confirmed cases are estimated to currently be around 7% based on an average of the last two weeks. This is in line with the UKHSA that reported 9.5% of all infections were reinfections.

The ZOE COVID Study incidence figures (new symptomatic cases) are based on reports from around 840,000 weekly contributors and the proportion of newly symptomatic users who have received positive swab tests. The latest survey figures were based on data from 42,694 recent swab tests done on symptomatic cases in the two weeks up to 26 January 2022. 

Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Study app, comments on the latest data:

“The bounce back in case numbers just as we lift restrictions has come sooner than many expected. But it’s not surprising given that, throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen the end of school holidays repeatedly usher in a rapid rise in cases among children, which then cross over into parents and school staff. Another emerging factor is that a new subtype of Omicron is taking over called BA.2, which is likely more infectious. One in 20 new cases had this variant last week, and as it's doubling every few days this should predominate within a month. The ZOE data has also seen more confirmed reinfections in recent weeks with  around 7% of new symptomatic cases having previously tested positive, suggesting a natural infection with Delta may not offer much protection. 

Taking all these factors into consideration, I expect that cases will continue to stay high until spring. However, the good news is that most vaccinated infections are mild, with symptoms lasting on average for a shorter time overall than Delta and with less severe cases. It’s clear that COVID and its new variants will continue to have an impact on our day-to-day lives for some time. It’s crucial that we’re responsible with our new freedoms and help to keep case numbers down and prevent the virus reaching the more vulnerable groups.”

Graph 1. The ZOE COVID Study UK incidence figures total number of daily new cases over time.

Graph 2. The ZOE COVID Study UK incidence figures results over time; total number of new cases and new cases in fully vaccinated

Graph 3. Incidence rate by region

Graph 4. Incidence by age group 

Graph 5. Comparison of new onset of cold-like illness and new onset of COVID with respiratory symptoms

Table 1. Incidence (daily new symptomatic cases)[*], R values and prevalence regional breakdown table 

Map of UK prevalence figures

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