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Covid infections are rising among primary school children in England, official data shows in what could be a sign of the back-to-school effect.

Statisticians at the Office for National Statistics estimated eight per cent of youngsters aged two to 11 had Covid on any given day in the week to January 15, the equivalent of one in 13, up slightly from 7 per cent the week prior.

The rate, based on swabs taken from 160,000 people across the country, is the highest of all other age groups, with 20 to 34-year-olds having the next highest rate (one in 17).

While rates are falling or flatlining in every other age group they are still climbing in children. Just five per cent of under-12s were thought to have the virus a month earlier.

It comes after children returned to classrooms on January 4 after a two-week break over the festive period.

Despite the rising infections in primary school and nursery-aged children, the ONS found that infections fell across England for the first time since Omicron took off last week. It estimated around 2.9million people were infected on any given day in the week to January 15, a ‘welcome decrease’ from the record 3.7m the previous week. 

The ONS survey is regarded as the most reliable indicator of the UK’s outbreak because it uses random sampling of around 100,000 people, rather than relying on people coming forward to be tested. 

The graph shows the proportion of people in England testing positive for Covid per age group. Infection rates were trending down in all age groups in the week to January 15, according to ONS estimates, apart from among two to 11-year-olds, with one in 13 (eight per cent) thought to be infected

The graph shows the proportion of people in England testing positive for Covid per age group. Infection rates were trending down in all age groups in the week to January 15, according to ONS estimates, apart from among two to 11-year-olds, with one in 13 (eight per cent) thought to be infected

The graph shows the proportion of people in England testing positive for Covid per age group. Infection rates were trending down in all age groups in the week to January 15, according to ONS estimates, apart from among two to 11-year-olds, with one in 13 (eight per cent) thought to be infected

The ONS said Covid infections fell in all regions of England except the North East and South West, where the trends were uncertain. In North East England, around one in 10 people were likely to test positive in the week to January 15 – the highest estimate for any region. The South West had the lowest rate, at around one in 25

The ONS said Covid infections fell in all regions of England except the North East and South West, where the trends were uncertain. In North East England, around one in 10 people were likely to test positive in the week to January 15 – the highest estimate for any region. The South West had the lowest rate, at around one in 25

The ONS said Covid infections fell in all regions of England except the North East and South West, where the trends were uncertain. In North East England, around one in 10 people were likely to test positive in the week to January 15 – the highest estimate for any region. The South West had the lowest rate, at around one in 25

The ONS data shows the virus was most prevalent among children from two-years-olds to pupils in year six.

Eight per cent of the group were estimated to have the virus on any given day in the week to January 15, compared to three per cent in the over-70s, the least-infectious group.

And cases appear to still be rising, with seven per cent estimated to be carrying the virus on January 8, compared to 9.2 per cent on January 15.

Daily Covid cases fall just 1.6% in a week as Omicron curve shows signs of levelling off 

Britain’s daily Covid cases fell by a single percent in a week today in an early hint that the recent dramatic plunge in Omicron might be starting to level off.

Government dashboard data shows there were another 107,364 positive tests across the country in the past 24 hours, down only slightly on the 109,133 last week.

It is technically the 15th day in a row that cases have fallen week-on-week but today’s weekly drop is the smallest in that time. The new figure brings average daily cases to around 92,000, which is half the number a fortnight ago.

SAGE warned today there could be a ‘long tail’ of infections as the UK comes out of the fourth wave that will ‘still need managing’.

But plateauing hospital admission rates and the growing disconnect between infections and deaths has given the Prime Minister the confidence to lift Plan B restrictions next week. 

Boris Johnson has also revealed he intends to ditch all Covid laws by the spring, including compulsory isolation for positive Covid cases. WFH guidance and masks in schools were the first measures to be officially ditched today.  

Doubling down on the Government’s decision to scrap the curbs, Sajid Javid signalled that ministers are prepared to tolerate more than 20,000 Covid deaths a year without reimposing measures.

There were another 330 Covid fatalities registered today in a 1.5 per cent fall compared to last Thursday. Latest hospital data shows there were 1,905 Covid admissions on January 16, down 13 per cent on the week prior. 

Mr Javid, the Health Secretary, told Sky News earlier: ‘We need to learn to live with it. Sadly people die of flu as well. In a bad flu year, you can sadly lose about 20,000 lives.

‘But we don’t shut down our entire country and put in place lots of restrictions to deal with it. We need to continue with our lives with sensible, appropriate and proportionate measures.’

He added: ‘Covid is not going away. It’s going to be with us for many many years, perhaps forever, and we have to learn to live with it.’ 

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Primary school children have been exempt from wearing masks throughout the pandemic, but ministers this week lifted the requirement for secondary school children to wear masks in classrooms.  

And they won’t be required to wear masks in corridors or any other spaces in schools from January 27. 

Boris Johnson said the lifting of Plan B restrictions is due to the success of the booster campaign and the fall in Omicron cases.

But Andy Byers, a head teacher at Framwellgate School in County Durham, has written to pupils and their parents asking youngsters to keep wearing masks in classrooms because cases are still high, leading to absences among staff and students.

In a letter to MPs, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said local health chiefs will have to run any plans to reintroduce face coverings in schools in their area by him to ‘ensure the right response to local outbreaks’. 

He said the decision to reimpose face mask rules in secondary schools amid the spiralling Omicron cases was not taken ‘lightly’ but it was ‘worth it to ensure we maximised face-to-face learning’.

Mr Zahawi wrote that in the ‘event of extraordinary outbreaks’ public health directors will share any plans to reintroduce face coverings in ‘tightly-focused geographical zones, ‘so that we can assess evidence and data to ensure any extra measures are proportionate’. 

Meanwhile, last week marked the first time that the ONS has recorded a fall in infections since Omicron first took off in late November and the downward trend now matches the Government’s daily statistics.  

One in 19 children aged 12 to 16 were infected on any given day in the week to January 15, while just 5.7 per cent of 17 to 24-year-olds had Covid after the figure reached nearly 10 per cent at the Omicron peak, according to the ONS. 

And 6.1 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds were infected, 4.9 per cent of 35 to 49 had Covid, while 4.1 per cent of people aged 50 to 69 had the virus.

The ONS said Covid infections fell in all regions of England except the North East and South West, where the trends were uncertain.

In North East England, around one in 10 people were likely to test positive in the week to January 15 – the highest estimate for any region. The South West had the lowest rate, at around one in 25.

Elsewhere in the UK, one in 25 people in Wales were estimated to have had coronavirus last week, where the outbreak was found to have shrunk. The rate was also one in 20 in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Sarah Crofts, head of analytical outputs for the Covid Infection Survey, said: ‘Our latest figures show a welcome decrease in infections across most parts of the UK and among all age groups apart from younger children. 

‘We will continue to closely monitor the data to see if this week’s decrease carries forward.’  

Professor James Naismith, a structural biologist at the University of Oxford, said the Covid rates ‘will start to fall rapidly’ across the country based on what was seen in Omicron epicentre South Africa, as well as trends in London and the North West, where cases have fallen sharply.

However, he warned Omicron ‘remains a potentially serious disease’ among the unvaccinated and vulnerable. 

The ONS data shows the proportion of people testing positive for Covid in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Infection rates fell in all nations apart from Northern Ireland, where the trend was uncertain, the ONS said

The ONS data shows the proportion of people testing positive for Covid in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Infection rates fell in all nations apart from Northern Ireland, where the trend was uncertain, the ONS said

The ONS data shows the proportion of people testing positive for Covid in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Infection rates fell in all nations apart from Northern Ireland, where the trend was uncertain, the ONS said

Professor Naismith said: ‘Omicron as expected was less severe in the vaccinated or those with previous infection, it was even less severe for the triple boosted.

‘By the time South African data clearly showed that Omicron was intrinsically less severe than Delta, Omicron had hit the UK.

‘The triple boost campaign has saved lives and lowered the pressure on the NHS. I believe vaccination is the best way to keep Covid at bay.’ 

It comes as daily Covid cases yesterday fell just 1.6 per cent in a week, suggesting the Omicron curve is levelling off. 

UK Health Security Agency data shows there were another 107,364 positive tests across the country, down only slightly on the 109,133 last week.

It is technically the 15th day in a row that cases have fallen week-on-week but today’s weekly drop is the smallest in that time. The new figure brings average daily cases to around 92,000, which is half the number a fortnight ago.

SAGE scientists yesterday warned there could be a ‘long tail’ of infections as the UK comes out of the fourth wave that will ‘still need managing’.

But plateauing hospital admission rates and the growing disconnect between infections and deaths has given the Prime Minister the confidence to lift Plan B restrictions next week. 

Boris Johnson has revealed he intends to ditch all Covid laws by the spring, including compulsory isolation for positive Covid cases. WFH guidance and masks in schools were the first measures to be officially ditched yesterday.  

Doubling down on the Government’s decision to scrap the curbs, Sajid Javid signalled that ministers are prepared to tolerate more than 20,000 Covid deaths a year without reimposing measures.

There were another 330 Covid fatalities registered yesterday in a 1.5 per cent fall compared to last Thursday. Latest hospital data shows there were 1,905 Covid admissions on January 16, down 13 per cent on the week prior. 

Source: Daily Mail UK

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