A RECORD 4.9million people had Covid last week across the UK.
In England one in 13 were infected with the bug, and Scotland reported one in 12 hit with the virus.
Kara Steel, Senior Statistician for the COVID-19 Infection Survey, said: “Infection levels remain high, with the highest levels recorded in our survey seen in England and Wales and notable increases among older age groups.
“The rapid rise continues to be fuelled by the growth of the Omicron BA.2 variant across the UK.
“We continue to closely monitor the data and remain thankful to all of our participants for their contribution.”
While case numbers are high, population immunity against Covid has also never been higher, and the Omicron variant is less severe.
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This allows for the bug to be treated like any other respiratory illness, ministers say.
The rise in infections is largely due to BA.2, Omicron’s subvariant, which is much better at getting round immunity and spreads faster.
But crucially, it has not caused a substantial increase in patients in hospital battling the bug.
For the most part, people will recover after a few days at home feeling unwell. Some won’t even have symptoms at all.
It comes as free tests for the majority of Brits have been scrapped today, with only certain people still able to get hold of them cost-free.
Anyone wanting to know if they are infected can instead now buy a kit from around £1 for a single, or £10 for a pack of five from pharmacies.
From today, anyone who has suspected or confirmed Covid or symptoms of a respiratory infection – cough, sneezing, stuffy/runny nose, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, temperature, feeling generally unwell – should stay at home.
New government guidance says anyone who has tested positive for Covid is now advised to stay at home and avoid contact with people for five days.
Those needing to leave home will be told to avoid close contact with vulnerable people, wear a face mask and avoid crowded spaces, such as rush hour trains.
Children and young people who are ill and have a high temperature should stay at home and avoid contact with others if they can.
They can go back to school, college or childcare when they don’t have a fever and are well enough.
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Professor Tim Spector, who runs the ZOE Covid tracking app, told Times Radio: “There should be a public health campaign to say at the moment, when your chances of having Covid are greater than a cold.
“Test if you can afford it – (and) even if you can’t – assume you’ve got Covid.”