More elderly people are now being admitted to hospital with COVID than they were at the peak of the Omicron wave, according to the latest official data.
The statistics from the UK Health Security Agency will add urgency to the new drive to vaccinate the over-75s with a “spring booster”.
Figures from the Weekly Flu and COVID Surveillance Report show that the admission rate in England for every 100,000 people over the age of 85 was 178.29 in the week to 20 March, compared with 158.43 at the turn of the year.
The rate in people aged between 75 and 84 was 74.34 per 100,000 last week. At the beginning of January, it was 70.3.
Although hospitalisation rates in younger patients are also rising, they are still below the level of the original Omicron surge.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said 60% of COVID-positive hospital patients are being admitted to treat other conditions and the virus is incidental.
But there will be some concern over a rise in admissions of COVID-positive patients over the age of 75 to intensive care. The rate in those aged between 75 and 84 rose from 1.19 to 1.69 per 100,000 in the space of a week.
It’s not clear whether they are there to treat breathing difficulties and complications from the virus or for other medical reasons, such as heart attacks and strokes.
People over the age of 75 were this week urged to book another booster dose to top up their immunity following fears that they may be vulnerable as the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron spreads rapidly around the UK.
The latest UKHSA surveillance report also suggests the rise in COVID cases may be beginning to slow in young adults and children, but continues to increase steadily in other age groups.
Current surge of cases ‘likely to follow patterns in Denmark and Netherlands’
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UKHSA, last week told Sky News that the current surge in cases is likely to follow the pattern of other countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands, where they rose to a sharp peak and then fell rapidly.
According to the new report, the number of weekly deaths of people with COVID has levelled off after falling sharply from the January peak.
In the week to 20 March, 505 people died within 28 days of a positive test – down from 1,726 in the week to 23 January.