Britain's Covid outbreak could be rebounding already, with infections now creeping back up after the Omicron crisis seemingly fizzled out.
UK Health Security Agency bosses today logged 88,447 positive tests, up 5 per cent on last week's tally. It marks the second day in a row that infections have risen week-on-week.
Despite question marks emerging over the true trajectory of the outbreak, both hospital admissions and deaths continue to fall.
Britain today posted 56 deaths — down by a third on last Monday's toll. Meanwhile, another 1,967 Covid-infected patients required NHS care on Tuesday, according to the most up-to-date UK-wide statistics.
Both measures are expected to keep heading downwards for the next few weeks because of how long it can take for people to become severely ill after getting infected. Britain's Omicron wave collapsed at the start of January before flatlining towards the middle of the month.
Despite the extremely-transmissible variant sending cases to pandemic highs, the number of Covid patients on ventilators has barely risen throughout the wave and is now at a six-month low, illustrating how mild the Omicron wave is compared to previous surges.
A total of 521 people were in hospital yesterday receiving breathing support in England, seven times lower than at the height of the second wave this time a year ago.
Vaccines, natural immunity and the intrinsically milder nature of the Omicron variant have helped sever the once impenetrable-link between infections and severe illness.
Ministers have taken confidence from the situation in hospitals to drop Plan B curbs in England from this Thursday, while Boris Johnson has signalled his intent to scrap all Covid laws by the spring. Work from home guidance and face masks in secondary schools have already been ditched.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said last week that the promising Omicron data in the UK signalled a 'new chapter' in the pandemic, as he compared the burden of Covid to flu.
But a World Health Organization official today warned against drawing comparisons between the two viruses. Dr David Nabarro, the agency's special envoy on Covid, said Covid was still 'very, very dangerous', adding: 'The virus should not be likened to flu. It's a new virus, and we must go on treating it as though it is full of surprises, very nasty and rather cunning.'
Figures from the UK Health Security Agency show 3.7 per cent of hospitalised patients in England (524 of 14,334) are on ventilators, the lowest rate recorded since the pandemic began. For comparison, 18.8 per cent of all patients in hospital last June were in intensive care
UKHSA data shows ventilation numbers have dropped from an average of 790 per day to 570 per day, showing despite the unprecedented surge in cases that saw more than 200,000 Britons test positive per day, people are not becoming as unwell from the now-dominant strain. Some 14,334 people in England were in hospital yesterday (red line), while 524 were on ventilators
Latest NHS data shows 14,334 people in England were in hospital yesterday with the coronavirus, 2.4 times lower than last winter's peak which saw 34,336 infected individuals requiring NHS care on January 18.
But the difference in the number of patients on ventilators was even more stark, with 524 Covid-infected patients across England requiring breathing support — roughly seven times lower than the 3,736 logged on January 24 last year, before the vaccine rollout.
The figure is also the lowest number seen since July 18, when 512 Covid patients in England were on ventilators and the Delta variant was dominant.
Since Omicron burst onto the scene at the end of November, ventilation numbers have dropped from an average of 790 per day to 570 per day.
Ventilators are the last line of breathing support available to patients. The figures do not show the number of patients requiring support through other machines to help them breathe, such as CPAP machines.
David Nabarro, the WHO's special envoy for Covid, said the comparisons were irresponsible because they suggest 'the virus has suddenly got incredibly weak'.
He told Sky News: 'It can also mutate and form variants and we've seen several but we know there are more not far away.
'So quite honestly, we are not saying that this should be considered to be like flu or indeed like anything else — it's a new virus, and we must go on treating it as though it is full of surprises, very nasty and rather cunning.'
The official called on leaders to 'stay focused on the job' as he claimed we were only at the 'halfway mark' of the pandemic.
Boris Johnson last week signalled his intention to lift isolation rules for