Numbers of people needing to go to hospital with Covid-19 in England are at their highest level in months, health chiefs say.
The total has risen by 37 percent in the past week, government figures say – fresh evidence of a new wave of infections.
A total of 9,631 people with coronavirus were in hospital at 8am on Wednesday, according to NHS England – the highest figure since August 3.
Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to the UK Health Security Agency, said: “This week’s data shows further increases in Covid-19 cases and hospitalization rates, which are now at their highest levels in months.
“Outbreaks in hospitals and nursing homes are also on the rise.”
And more suspected outbreaks were reported, she said.
The number of “acute respiratory incidents” also increased last week, according to the latest official report.
Patient numbers peaked at 14,000 in mid-July at the peak of the wave of infections caused by the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the virus, then fell steadily until mid-September.
But the numbers have risen in recent weeks, suggesting that Covid-19 is once again more preventable, with the wearing of masks.
The latest figures show that all regions are recording a steady rise in patients, with three regions returning to levels last seen in late July.
South West England has 1,003 patients who have tested positive for Covid-19, not far below its peak during the BA.4 or BA.5 wave of 1,229.
South-east England has 1,553 patients, close to its summer peak of 1,985, while eastern England has 1,064, compared with a summer peak of 1,432.
However, all numbers remain well below those reached during the early waves of the pandemic.
All people aged 65 and over are currently eligible for a booster vaccine, provided they had their last jab at least three months ago.
Doses are also available for frontline health and care workers, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
The booster, intended to increase protection against serious illness during subsequent waves of the virus, will eventually be offered to anyone aged 50 and over.
A study this week showed that over-65s who have had Covid are 80 per cent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s within a year of being infected.
The number of people in private households who tested positive for coronavirus in the week to September 17 was 857,400, or about one in 65 – up from 766,500, or one in 70, in the seven days to September 14.
Infections in England peaked at 3.1 million in the summer BA.4 / BA.5 wave.