COVID deaths in England are peaking and will soon start to drop, top government advisers claim.
Projections from the SPI-M modelling group, shown to ministers last week, estimated deaths would peak around January 16 before falling again.
The group said deaths would likely top out at around 250 per day.
England’s current average is 231 per day and the figure fell on Wednesday after stalling between 230 and 240 for the past week.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said at a Downing Street press conference last night that the Covid death count is “a lot, lot lower than it's been before”.
At the peak of last winter’s wave an average 1,135 deaths were reported every day – five times higher than the current figure.
Members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said jabs and the milder Omicron variant have slashed fatalities.
They agreed in a meeting last week: “The increase in hospitalisations, which is anticipated following the increase in cases in older age groups, has not been seen so far.
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“This may be due to higher vaccine levels of protection against hospitalisation, slower waning of vaccine protection, or the impact of precautionary behaviours amongst the most vulnerable and those around them.”
SPI-M’s projections suggested deaths in England could drop below 150 per day by the first week of February – a fall of a third compared to now.
They added that deaths are set to begin falling in all regions before the end of the month, although they will peak at different times.
Reports also show that patients who test positive in hospital are less sick than in previous waves.
Figures show around half of Covid patients in hospitals in England actually get admitted for something else and just happen to have the virus.
The proportion is as high as two thirds at Barts Health in London, one of the country’s biggest hospital trusts.
NHS sources said the fact that many on virus wards did not get admitted because of it shows vaccines are “working to limit the severity of Covid”.
Mr Javid said: “With Omicron, we estimate around 40 per cent of the people with Covid in hospital are there not because they've got Covid – they happen to have Covid.
“So it's what you might call an incidental infection. So they're not there being treated for Covid. And that's almost double the percentage that we saw with Delta.
“That's important because the deaths that are being reported of people that were Covid-positive within 28 days of passing away, many of those people would not have necessarily died of Covid.”
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