In The North East Of The UK Covid Infections And Hospital Admissions Are Rising

Covid infections in the north-east of England are rising, three weeks before testing sites in the region are due to shut, health bosses have warned.

The increase is being blamed on the more transmissible Omicron BA.2 sub-variant, combined with increased social mixing and waning immunity.

Newcastle director of public health Prof Eugene Milne said he feared many people felt "Covid is over".

"Which I think is premature, but it is changing people's behaviour," he added.

He told councillors infection rates in the city had risen in the past week, with more than 200 cases recorded in a single day for the first time in nearly a month.

The BA.2 strain is believed to account for about two-thirds of new cases, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Covid infections are also increasing across the UK with about one in 25 people infected, according to estimates from the Office for National Statistics.

Reserve Capacity Uncertain

Latest figures show there are 332 cases per 100,000 people in Newcastle and 399 in Northumberland.

Across the wider North East 283 people per 100,000 have tested positive and all rates are rising.

The number of patients in hospital with Covid in Newcastle has risen from fewer than 30 in mid-February to 64.

Meanwhile, Covid testing facilities in the region are due to shut down at the end of the month with free testing ending for most people on 1st April.

It emerged last week that the state-of-the-art Covid Lighthouse Lab in Gateshead, which has processed more than eight million PCR tests, would also close with the possible loss of 650 jobs.

Prof Milne said health chiefs knew testing capacity would be scaled back, but raised concerns that it was not clear what reserve capacity would remain to deal with new outbreaks.

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