Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Chart of the Day
21 March 2022

Is the UK heading for a fifth wave of Covid-19?

There are now nearly 15,000 patients across Britain in hospital with the virus.

By Michael Goodier

The number of patients with Covid-19 in UK hospitals is rising again. Government figures show that 14,671 patients across the UK were in hospital with the virus on 17 March – the highest figure since the start of February.

In England, NHS figures show that while most patients are still “incidental” – meaning they are primarily being treated for something else – the proportion primarily being treated for Covid-19 has risen in recent weeks.

Incidental admissions require the same infection control measures as other Covid patients, so they present a greater burden to hospitals. Many of them can end up turning into more serious cases, or Covid can make other conditions worse.

The rise in hospital admissions follows a rise in infections, a trend being seen across Europe. Much of that is down to the rapid spread of the now-dominant Omicron BA.2 variant, which is more transmissible than the BA.1 variant. Separate figures from the ONS show that fewer British people are wearing face coverings (74 per cent, down from 83 per cent) and social distancing (28 per cent down from 32 per cent) than previously.

So far, the number of people dying from Covid-19 has remained fairly stable, with high levels of immunity meaning there hasn’t been a major increase. The NHS in England has started inviting eligible people to come forward for a spring booster jab today (21 March).

Nikki Kanani, a GP and the deputy leader of the NHS Covid Vaccination Programme, said: “Sadly, we are still seeing large numbers of people seriously unwell in hospital with Covid so it remains vital that those most at risk come forward when they are invited to do so.”

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
The shrinking road to net zero
The tree-planting misconception
Is your business ready for corporate climate reporting?

Topics in this article: