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Experts say there is little need to fear a recent surge in cases as fewer than one in 3,000 infected people now dies from coronavirus – with the rate even lower for the vaccinated.
Death rates from Covid are lower than ever, according to analysis carried out for The Mail on Sunday.

Experts say there is little need to fear a recent surge in cases as fewer than one in 3,000 infected people now dies from coronavirus - with the rate even lower for the vaccinated.

The analysis of official data by Oxford University shows the 'infection fatality rate' has dropped about 30-fold since the pandemic began due to a combination of vaccine protection and naturally acquired infection.

Professor Carl Heneghan of Oxford's Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, who carried out the analysis with statistician Jason Oke, said: 'There have been an astonishing number of Covid infections so far this year, but deaths have come down.

'Now we are looking at an infection fatality rate for Covid of around one in 3,000 which is comparable with seasonal influenza. That's why the Government is right not to be concerned and has come to the conclusion that there is no need for restrictions.'

Experts are, however keeping a close watch on two new strains of the Omicron variant - BA4 and BA5. On Friday, the UK Health Security Agency said these strains were set to 'become dominant' and data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested around 1.7 million people had Covid in the week ending June 18 - about one in 35 of the population.

The number of hospitalisations is also rising, more than doubling over the last month from about 450 a day in late May to around 1,000 a day now.

In late March and early April, Prof Heneghan said around one in 14 were infected but this did not result in large numbers of deaths over the following month.

Mr Oke calculated how death rates changed over time by producing a 'spot rate' for each day. He compared official estimates of how many people were thought to have been newly infected on a given day with the number of deaths on a single day about a month later - with the gap to account for the time lag - roughly four weeks on average - between infection and death. He then drew a line of 'best fit' to smooth out day-to-day variation.

Data from South Africa, where BA4 and BA5 have already taken hold, indicate those infected could be 50 per cent more likely to be hospitalised than for the original Omicron strain.


Prof Heneghan said while 'we should keep an eye' on the figures, he did not think these hospitalisations would derail the downward fatality trend.

'There's been a tendency to go to the worst case scenario too much throughout the pandemic,' he said. 'We risk just scaring ourselves into more restrictions.'

His words were echoed by Prof Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, the former deputy chief medical officer for England, who told the BBC: 'In terms of its [Covid's] kind of lethality, the picture now is much, much, much closer to seasonal flu than it was when [Covid] first emerged.'