An estimated one in eight people in England had had Covid-19 by December last year, up from one in 14 in October, new figures show.
Antibody data on infection in private households suggests that one in 10 in Wales had also been infected by December, alongside one in 13 in Northern Ireland and one in 11 in Scotland.
The figures come from the UK's Office for National Statistic’s Covid-19 Infection Survey in partnership with the University of Oxford, University of Manchester, Public Health England and Wellcome Trust.
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) January 19, 2021
They are based on the proportion of the population who are likely to have tested positive for antibodies to Covid-19, 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 5 per cent in south-west England.
The study came as health secretary Matt Hancock revealed he is self-isolating after receiving an alert through the NHS Covid-19 app.
Mr Hancock, who has previously had coronavirus, said self-isolating is important because it is “how we break the chains of transmission”.
Meanwhile, 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 said “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 told LBC radio: “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.”