Coronavirus has hit the UK hard, with the country recording more than 22m cases and over 170,000 deaths linked to the disease.
The government figures below include confirmed cases only – some people who have the disease are not tested. Notably, since the end of legal requirements to test and to self-isolate after a positive test result, many fewer tests are being taken – once free tests end at the start of April, testing is likely to fall further. So case numbers may well be showing a steeper decline in infections than is really the case.
Where are the UK’s current coronavirus hotspots?
At the start of the pandemic, London bore the brunt of coronavirus’s impact before the centre of the virus shifted northwards. More recently, hotspots have developed again across the country, with London being hit earliest by the Omicron wave.
Everyday life in the UK has been subject to varying degrees of restriction since March 2020, although national restrictions were relaxed in all four nations of the UK over the summer of 2021.
How is the disease progressing in the UK?
Cases in the UK first peaked in early April 2020, before falling in late spring and summer. After reaching a record level in January 2021, cases declined sharply. They remained high but stable after the latest lockdown release in July 2021, but surged again with the arrival of the Omicron variant. The number of tests available affects the number of recorded cases.
The number of people in hospital with coronavirus rose sharply after records started at the end of March 2020, peaking in April. That figure began rising again in September and reached a new record in January 2021. It is now at a relatively low level.
Deaths surpassed their first-wave peak in January 2021, with daily deaths once again standing at over 1,000. As with hospitalisations, the number of deaths is now at a relatively low level, although there was an increase winter of 2021-22 with the arrival of the Omicron variant.
In this graph, deaths are counted as people who have died within 28 days of their first positive test. Counting everyone with Covid-19 listed as a cause on their death certificate results in a higher figure (see note below).
How does the third wave compare with the second wave?
Since mid-May 2021, cases shot up at a rate comparable to the start of the second wave in autumn 2020. However, hospitalisations and deaths remain much lower than at the equivalent time during the second wave. Scientists say this is down to the protective effects of vaccines.
How is the vaccine rollout progressing?
Since UK regulators approved the Pfizer vaccine in December 2020, the UK’s vaccine rollout has picked up pace. Until early July 2021, hundreds of thousands of people were being vaccinated every day. The introduction of the booster campaign in October 2021 increased vaccine rollout once again, although this has since slowed down.
With first-dose vaccines open to over-5s in the UK from March 2022, vaccines are available to everyone except younger children. However, in all age groups there is a persistent number of people who are not vaccinated. The lowest rates of vaccination are among younger age groups. While they were the last to be invited for vaccinations, there are concerns about vaccine hesitancy among younger people.
How testing affects cases
Since not everyone gets a test, the number of people catching coronavirus will always be higher than the number of positive tests.
A consistent level of testing makes it easier to compare case numbers across time. But, with tests in short supply in the first phase of the pandemic in 2020, case numbers were undercounted compared to the second and third waves.
The level of testing has become an issue again in spring 2022 as all parts of the UK changed their testing rules.
England charged for lateral flow tests and PCRs for most people from 1 April 2022. In Scotland, testing only remains available to specific groups, such as health workers or those with certain health conditions, with most people with symptoms advised to simply stay at home. In Wales, lateral flow tests are only available for free if you have Covid-19 symptoms, while PCRs are available only under certain conditions, such as if a doctor says you’re eligible for one. In Northern Ireland, most people can no longer access a free PCR test, while lateral flow tests are free only for those with symptoms. Latest information on tests in all countries available here.
Reducing the availability of tests will reduce the number of recorded cases and make it harder to track the spread of the virus.
How many new cases are reinfections?
Initially, reinfections with coronavirus were rare. But as the Omicron variant arrived at the end of 2021, and immunity from previous infections waned, reinfections increased to account for about 10% of all daily cases in England.
How are case rates changing?
Lockdown had brought down case rates for everyone. But different age groups have been affected differently. Throughout the pandemic working-age people between 20 and 60 have had the highest levels of infection.
This has become more stark since the vaccine rollout has protected many of the more vulnerable elderly people in society, with case rates rising among the younger groups while staying relatively low among older people.
Find coronavirus cases near you
In the table below, you can find out the number of cases per 100,000 in your area, both for the last week and since the start of the pandemic.
About this data
This data comes comes from Public Health England, working with devolved authorities in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Differences in data collection and publishing schedules may lead to temporary inconsistencies.
The government figures for deaths that are used in this tracker incorporate any deaths that have occurred within 28 days of a positive test. This means they are able to quickly capture deaths occurring in hospitals and care homes, both settings where testing is widespread.
The ONS, along with its counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland, captures deaths data differently. They count all deaths where Covid is on the death certificate. About 90% of these deaths are directly due to Covid while it is a contributory factor in the remaining deaths.
Due to the unprecedented and ongoing nature of the coronavirus outbreak, this article is being regularly updated to ensure that it reflects the current situation as well as possible. Any significant corrections made to this or previous versions of the article will continue to be footnoted in line with Guardian editorial policy.