The latest government figures showed a further 49,139 people tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday – almost eight times the rate in March, and a steady increase from the 43,738 recorded 24 hours earlier. On Monday, the figure stood at 49,156.
Health secretary Sajid Javid held the first Covid press briefing in several weeks on Wednesday, as concerns around the rise in cases grows. The last time a minister gave such a conference was when Boris Johnson announced his winter plan five weeks ago.
Mr Javid told the press conference he would not be triggering Plan B, which would involve the return of mandatory face-coverings, vaccine passports in nightclubs and the resumption of guidance to work from home where possible.
However, he did warn that restrictions could return if everyone did not “do their bit” to limit the spread of Covid. He urged people to continue wearing face masks and take up the booster jabs when invited to do so.
Around 15 per cent of those eligible for the jabs have taken them up, according to NHS England data, with Prof Martin Marshall, head of the Royal College of GPs, describing the vaccination situation as “concerning”.
“We know that the number of people who are eligible for a booster vaccination is about 30 million people – that’s mostly people over the age of 50, health and care workers and some people at risk,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme.
Only 4.05 million people have received a vaccination so far, NHS figures show.
The same government data from Wednesday revealed a further 179 people died within 28 days after testing positive for Covid, a drop from 223 on Tuesday which marked the highest daily figure since early March.
Despite this, the vaccine is doing a good job overall of keeping hospitalisations and deaths relatively low. Across the UK as a whole, 7,749 patients with Covid-19 were in hospital on 18 October, the highest number since 20 September, but a fraction of the 40,000 patients at the peak of the second wave in January.
So, what is the situation in England?
The country’s seven-day infection rate is just higher than the entire UK average – 446.2 per 100,000 people – at 447.9. It’s a similar tale for Wales and Northern Ireland.
Here’s how that breaks down by region:
Southwest– 580.7 per 100,000
East Midlands – 515.7
Yorkshire and the Humber – 492.1
East of England – 466.7
West Midlands – 475.8
Northwest – 460.7
Northeast – 454.7
Southeast – 450.5
London – 248.9
Case numbers in the capital remain well below the rest of the country.
As of Wednesday, Bath is the most infected area in England, with 877 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Somerset with 748.1.
Wales remains the most infected UK nation, with an overall infection rate of 624.7 per 100,000, a sharp rise from the 585.1 reported on Tuesday.
The local authority with the highest infection rate in Wales is now Torfaen (870), followed by Blaenau Gwent (859.8) and Cardiff (790.4), all up from the day before.
First minister Mark Drakeford reported he expects some Covid measures to remain in place through the winter.
“Mask-wearing in crowded public places, continuing to ask people to work from home, a Covid pass for high-risk locations – that is the suite of measures we hope will see us through this autumn and winter without needing to do anything else, but I do expect they will continue into the early part of next year,” he said.
Meanwhile, it became mandatory last week for Welsh people to show Covid passes before entering nightclubs and mass events in an attempt to crush rising infections.
Scotland has the lowest infection rate of all four UK nations, at 316.5 per 100,000 people – likely a result of the country’s ongoing measures such as mandatory face-mask wearing.
The Shetland Islands (78.7) and Orkney Islands (116.1) have the lowest rates of any area in the country.
There were 26 Covid deaths and 2,768 cases on Wednesday, according to the latest Scottish government figures. It means the death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 8,980.
The daily test positivity rate stood at 7.1 per cent, down from 12.4 per cent the previous day.
Northern Ireland’s latest seven-day infection rate was 473.3 per 100,000 on Wednesday, down from 479.1 on Monday.
Its worst affected area is Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, at 558.4. Belfast’s infection rate is currently at 460.9, up from 453.4 the previous day.
Restrictions in most of the country’s hospitality settings are only set to be lifted on 31 October, with nightclubs reopening for the first time in almost 20 months.
First minister Paul Givan confirmed on Tuesday face coverings in crowded indoor spaces will remain a legal requirement throughout autumn and winter.
He also set out a range of options should Covid cases rise sharply or hospital pressures become “unsustainable”, as part of the Executive’s winter strategy.
Potential measures include deploying Covid vaccine passports in “higher risk settings”, Mr Givan said.