The number of people in hospital with Covid is also on an upward trend in most parts of the country, suggesting the virus is becoming steadily more prevalent.
Health experts said that while there is “currently no evidence” that BA.4 and BA.5 lead to more serious symptoms than previous variants, nearly one in six people aged 75 and over have not received a booster dose of vaccine in the past six months, putting them more at risk of severe disease.
A total of 1.7 million people in private households are estimated to have had the virus last week, up 23% from 1.4 million a week earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
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The rise of 23% is lower than the 43% jump in the previous week’s figures, but it means total infections are now at levels last seen at the end of April.
They are also higher than the peak reached during the second wave of the virus in January 2021.
However, infections are still below the record 4.9 million seen at the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave at the end of March this year.
The ONS said the latest increase was “likely caused by infections compatible with Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5”, which are now thought to be the most dominant strains in much of the UK.
In England, 1.4 million people were likely to have had the virus last week, the equivalent of around one in 40.
Wales has seen infections rise slightly to 68,500 people, or one in 45, up from 64,800, also one in 45.
In Northern Ireland, Covid-19 infections jumped to an estimated 59,900 people, or one in 30, up from 42,900, or one in 45.
Separate analysis published yesterday by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) suggests the Omicron variant BA.5 is growing approximately 35% faster than BA.2, while BA.4 is growing 19% faster – meaning it is likely that BA.5 will soon become the dominant Covid-19 variant in the UK.