How soaring Covid infections compare to this time last year with cases now 210% higher



For the second year in a row Boris Johnson has a mammoth decision to make about Christmas as Covid cases spiral.

Twelve months ago the Kent variant, later known as Alpha, was fuelling a surge in infections and the panicked PM was forced to tell families to cancel celebrations after weeks of insisting everything would be fine.

This year it is Omicron which threatens to spoil the party, with Mr Johnson under pressure to announce tough measures to prevent the virus overwhelming the NHS.

Yesterday the Department of Health announced that 82,886 people had tested positive for Covid in 24 hours. Exactly a year earlier the figure was 27,052.

But the number of lives lost to the virus was far lower thanks to a vaccination programme that was only just getting underway in December 2020.

Here we look at the facts and figures now compared to this time last year.

Click here for latest updates on the Covid crisis

Cases are currently much higher than they were a year ago, with a 210 per cent rise recorded
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Image:

Press Association Images)

Cases – up 210 per cent

The picture is undoubtedly more bleak this year if we look at case numbers.

In the past week the number of people testing positive for Covid totalled 547,606, according to government figures.

This compares with 176,641 in the seven days up to December 19, 2020 – meaning we’ve seen a 210 per cent increase.

On Friday 93,045 infections were announced, the highest figure of the pandemic so far.

And experts are predicting it will continue to rise, with cases of the Omicron variant doubling in less than two days in parts of the country.

An anxious Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, last week warned: “I’m afraid we have to be realistic that records will be broken a lot over the next few weeks as the rates continue to go up.”

It is now estimated that 60 per cent of Covid cases across the UK are Omicron, with the mutant strain accounting for 80 per cent in London.

The number of people in hospital with Covid is lower than it was a year ago, but medics are anxious
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Joel Goodman)

Deaths – down 75 per cent

In the past week 780 lives have been lost to Covid-19, the government coronavirus dashboard shows.

While each Covid death is a tragedy, the number is mercifully a huge drop on the number of people who died during the same period last year.

In the seven days to December 19 2020, the Department of Health announced 3,184 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test.

This means that the number of Covid deaths over a week is currently 75.5 per cent lower than it was.

On December 16 alone last year 612 fatalities were confirmed, and sadly the number would climb in the coming days.

Yesterday 45 deaths were confirmed by the government – although figures released on a Sunday are often lower than the rest of the week.

This time last year the official death toll since the start of the pandemic stood at 66,965.

Tragically since then more than 80,000 people have died after contracting the virus, with the current figure now 147,218.

The Prime Minister is once again facing a crisis before Christmas
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Patients in hospital – down 59 per cent

On December 19 last year, figures released by the government revealed that there were 18,771 people in hospitals with Covid across the UK.

That day alone, 1,907 people were admitted, and the number would continue to rise throughout the Christmas period.

Yesterday the numbers were lower, but the spread of Omicron could be a game-changer, experts have warned.

Latest data shows 900 patients were admitted to hospital with Covid last Monday, while 7,611 people were being treated on Thursday.

However with Omicron spreading at an alarming rate, the numbers could change very quickly.

Last week Prof Whitty said: “I’m afraid we’re also seeing the inevitable increase in hospitalisations up by 10% nationally, week-on-week, and up by almost a third in London.”

Vaccines

The big difference between Christmas 2020 and Christmas 2021 is that a large proportion of the population are vaccinated.

It wasn’t until December 8 last year that 90-year-old Margaret Keenan became the first person to be given a jab in the UK when she received her first Pfizer dose.

Roll forward a year and 81.7 per cent of the population over the age of 12 have had two doses of a Covid vaccine.

There is no doubt that this severely dented the link between infections, hospitalisations and deaths, with the results evident in the figures above.

But there’s a problem.

Data suggest that the newly-emerged Omicron variant is able to dodge the protection given by two jabs, sparking a huge booster jab drive.

As of yesterday 28,060,874 people had been given a booster or third dose, with more than 900,000 administered in just 24 hours.

Omicron cases have exploded in London in recent days
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AFP via Getty Images)

Hotspots

A year ago Essex and Kent were the epicentres of the UK’s Covid crisis.

In December 2021 London accounts for the majority of the worst-hit areas.

Figures released on this day a year ago show that Thurrock had the highest infection rate. But data from Friday reveals that there are currently five areas with a higher level than Thurrock had back then, when restrictions were brought in.

The 10 worst Covid hotspots this time last year

Thurrock – 1056.0 cases per 100,000 people

Havering – 1021.8 cases per 100,000 people

Basildon – 995.2 cases per 100,000 people

Medway – 981.8 cases per 100,000 people

Epping Forest – 956.8 cases per 100,000 people

Swale – 912.8 cases per 100,000 people

Redbridge – 884.9 cases per 100,000 people

Brentwood – 875.1 cases per 100,000 people

Rochford – 864.2 cases per 100,000 people

Ashford – 842.9 cases per 100,000 people

The 10 worst Covid hotspots now

Lambeth – 1249.5 cases per 100,000 people

Wandsworth – 1178.8 cases per 100,000 people

Southwark – 1160.3 cases per 100,000 people

Hackney and City of London – 1128.5cases per 100,000 people

Hammersmith and Fulham – 1119.1 cases per 100,000 people

Islington – 1035.8 cases per 100,000 people

Lewisham – 1006.2 cases per 100,000 people

Greenwich – 997.5 cases per 100,000 people

Thurrock – 982.7 cases per 100,000 people

Reigate and Banstead – 982.3 cases per 100,000 people

Millions of people were put into the highest level of lockdown a year ago

What were the rules then compared to now

This time last year the government, desperate to avoid a national lockdown, was instead reliant on the tier system.

On December 19, Boris Johnsonannounced a new Tier 4, where non-essential shops were forced to close and mixing between households was banned.

London, Essex, Kent and large swathes of the South East were put into this category due to soaring infection rates.

Hospitality venues were forced to shut in Tier 3, while people were only allowed to meet outside in groups of up to six with those they did not live with.

By comparison the rules are far more relaxed.

Shops are open, and large gatherings such as sports matches, nightclubs, cinemas and concerts are still permitted – although proof of vaccination or a negative test are required for some.

Mask wearing and guidance to work from home are in place under the government’s Plan B, but in England there are currently no restrictions that would prevent families getting together at Christmas.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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