UK Covid infection levels reach new record high for pandemic, estimates show

Covid infection levels in the UK have reached a new record high for the pandemic, estimates show.

An average of 351,000 people are contracting the virus each day, according to the latest incidence figures from the ZOE Covid study – an increase of 13 per cent from the beginning of the month.

The previous record of 350,000 daily infections was set in late March 2022.

Professor Tim Spector, the lead scientist behind the research, said 1 in 15 people in the UK currently have the virus. He added that cases are still rising across England but flattening in Scotland and Wales.

Infection rates are also continuing to rise in all age groups, but are beginning to level out in children, the research shows.

The recent surge in cases has been largely driven by the Omicron sub-variant BA.5, which is better at spreading than previous strains of the Covid virus.

“This variant is particularly good at immune escape, causing an increase in reinfections in people in spite of vaccines and natural immunity, particularly over the past few weeks,” Prof Spector said earlier this month.

The record-breaking figures come as headteachers warned over rising pupil absence rates. The latest government data, released on Tuesday, showed that overall attendance in state schools, adjusted to exclude Year 11 and 13 students sitting exams, fell to 86.9 per cent on 7 July, down from 89.4 per cent on 23 June.

The attendance in secondary schools was just 81.2 per cent, down from 86.9 per cent on 23 June, equating to nearly one in five pupils being off school.

The data represents the lowest level of attendance since 28 January, when 85.3 per cent of pupils were in school during the Omicron wave of infections.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, described the data as “extremely concerning”.

“It is impossible to know how many of these absences are directly due to Covid, as the government has made the decision to no longer collect this information,” he said.