Meanwhile: On another day of coronavirus chaos!

Updated: Jan 14

On another day of coronavirus chaos:

  • Critics accused ministers of sitting on evidence justifying slashing self-isolation to just five days since last summer;

  • NHS figures suggested as many as 5,000 Covid patients in hospital in England may have been admitted for other ailments;

  • Twenty-four NHS trusts declared 'critical incidents' due to staff shortages and rising Covid admissions;

  • Travel companies braced for a surge in demand from British tourists after pre-departure Covid tests for those arriving in England were scrapped in a major boost for the beleaguered industry;

  • A major Office for National Statistics report claimed a total of 1.3million Britons were living with long Covid before the Omicron surge.

MailOnline's analysis suggests the Covid fatality rate fell to as low as 0.14 per cent on December 28 — its lowest ever total — after dropping every day since November 18.

The rate is calculated by comparing average death numbers to average case numbers from two weeks earlier, which is roughly the amount of time it takes for the disease to take hold, experts say.

It means the case-fatality rate — which is different to the infection-fatality rate, which will be even lower because not everyone who has the virus gets tested — was already dropping before the strain kicked off in Britain in mid December, suggesting vaccines have played a huge role in thwarting the virus.

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline the Covid fatality rate has been falling in recent weeks in the UK but some of this 'is probably down to delayed reporting of deaths over Christmas'.

He said the 'fatality rate for Omicron does seem to be lower than we have seen with previous variants and is probably now below 0.2 per cent'.

But the figure is also skewed slightly by increased levels of testing, with the number of swabs being carried out every having shot by around 245 per cent over the past year. Testing in Britain reached its highest ever level in the week leading up to Christmas this year, before peaking on January 4 at more than 2million.

And data shows cases were predominantly occurring in people aged under-50, who have always been less at risk of dying from the virus. Rates are now only going up in over-60s in London, signalling what may be to come fore the res of the country.

Experts say the trend is set to reverse next week, with infections slowing in the vulnerable age group and expected to fall.

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data also shows the number of people who died on New Year's Eve — the latest date fatalities by death date is available for — fell to 103.

Death numbers remained below 140 throughout December, having been closer to 200 at points in November and October.

More up-to-date death figures by date reported is marred by data issues over the bank holiday weekends. Britain yesterday logged 334 fatalities within 28 days of a positive test, up 486 per cent on the previous week's reported total.

The proportion of beds occupied by patients who are primarily in hospital 'for' Covid, versus those who were admitted for something else and tested positive later, referred to as 'with' Covid. The data covers the week between December 21 and December 28, when were around 2,100 additional beds occupied by the virus in England — of which 1,150 were primary illness (55 per cent). That suggests 45 per cent were not seriously ill with Covid, yet were counted in the official statistics.

In the South East of England 66 per cent were primarily non-Covid, in the East of England it was 51 per cent and in London it was 48 per cent. Critics argue, however, that the figures are unreliable because they don't include discharges, which could skew the data. But they add to the growing trend

Latest figures show that hospitals in England have actually had fewer beds occupied this winter than they did pre-Covid. An average of 89,097 general and acute beds were open each day in the week to December 26, of which 77,901 were occupied. But the NHS was looking after more hospital patients in the week to December 26 in 2019, 2018 and 2017

While Covid hospitalisations are rising quickly in England, they are still half of the level of last January and far fewer patients are needing ventilation

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