Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am
1 in 8 people in England has had coronavirus, new figures show
19 January 2021, 11:08 | Updated: 19 January 2021, 13:24
An estimated one in eight people had been infected with Covid-19 in England by December last year, new figures show.
This equates to 5.4 million people over the age of 16, and is up from one in 14 people in October.
One in 10 people in Wales, one in 11 in Scotland and one in 13 in Northern Ireland are also likely to have had the virus.
The figures come from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in partnership with the University of Oxford, University of Manchester, Public Health England and Wellcome Trust.
They are based on the proportion of the population who are likely to have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies, based on blood test results, from a sample of people aged 16 and over.
The ONS found "substantial variation" between regions in England, with 17 per cent of people in private households in Yorkshire and the Humber estimated to have tested positive for antibodies in December, compared with five per cent in south-west England.
In London, the figure was 16 per cent in December, up from 11 per cent in October, while it was 15 per cent in the North West, up from 6 per cent in October.
In the West Midlands, 14 per cent have had Covid, up from 8 per cent in October, while 8 per cent in the South East and the East of England have had the virus, both up from 5 per cent in October.
It came as some family doctors continue to express their frustration about the rollout of vaccines across the UK.
With more than half of the over-80s and half of elderly care home residents having received the jab, ministers have now given the go-ahead to begin vaccinating the next priority groups - the over-70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told LBC "there will be an overlap" between those in the first group getting their jab and those in the second as the NHS keeps up the momentum of the vaccine rollout.
He said: "We're very clear that areas should be getting through the majority of the first cohort before they move on to the second cohort, but there will be an overlap.
"The reality is, as you're moving through these, as you start to bring the second cohort in, there will be a bit of an overlap.
"So, while they're still finishing cohort one, some people from the second cohort will be having their vaccines and being contacted.
"That's understandable because the other alternative is you get through cohort one and you pause before you can start getting cohort two in and that would be wrong.
"In order to keep things flowing and moving we will see some overlap, but areas should be getting through the majority of cohort one before they start moving to cohort two."
On Monday night, Health Secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged that some parts of the country had made better progress than others in vaccinating those in the top priority group, but said more supplies of the vaccine are being pumped to areas that have fallen behind.
He said: "We're prioritising the supply of the vaccine into those parts of the country that need to complete the over-80s", adding:
"But we don't want to stop the areas that have effectively done that job already."
The number of people in the UK receiving their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine has now passed four million and the Government is on track to vaccinate around 15 million high-priority people across the UK by February 15.