UK Covid infections hit record high as free testing ends
Rates of Covid infections hit record high in the UK as the government ends free testing for millions.
Covid infection rates have surged in the UK, hitting record highs according to data from Friday, just as the government has decided to end free testing for millions.
Around 4.9 million people are estimated to have contracted the coronavirus in the week ending March 26, 600,000 more than the week before. This means that 1 in 13 people in England were infected with Covid-19 that week, up from 1 in 16 the week before.
Scotland had a higher rate at 1 in 12. ONS senior statistician Kara Steel said that the rapid rise in cases is fuelled by the growth of the Omicron variant.
This surge in cases has fuelled criticism of the government's decision to end free testing, especially at such a sensitive time. The timing "couldn't really be worse" said Tim Spector, a professor of epidemiology at King's College London.
Free tests will continue in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which are independent in their health policies.
British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said people should learn to "live with Covid". "We are one of the most open and free countries in the world now, and that's because of decisions that we've taken as a country," he said after England's last legal curbs were lifted in February.