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1 in 8 people in England had coronavirus in December

Credit: Belga

One in eight people in England were infected with the new coronavirus in December, according to an official study published on Tuesday.

The figure marks a sharp increase compared to the previous month (1 in 11) against the backdrop of the spread of a new highly contagious variant of coronavirus which saw many countries including Belgium tighten their travel rules.

The number is higher than in Wales (1 in 10), Northern Ireland (1 in 13) and Scotland (1 in 11), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said based on antibody tests carried out randomly in the population.

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The UK has suffered almost 90,000 deaths related to the virus, making it the country with the worst death toll in Europe.

In England and Wales, overall mortality for the first week of January was 45.8% higher than the average for the last five years, according to the ONS, which warned, however, that the data could be skewed by delays in recording deaths during the Christmas holiday period.

London, which was particularly hard hit by the latest wave, recorded an increase of almost 85% in deaths compared to the average recorded in the same week over the last five years.

British Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock, who contracted the virus last year, announced on Tuesday on Twitter that he would observe a quarantine period until Sunday after possible contact with an infected person.

The Brussels Times