Dr Conall Watson, a consultant epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: “Flu is now circulating widely and we have seen a sharp rise in the rate of hospitalisations for flu this week, particularly among the under-fives and over-85s.
“Admissions are now at the highest point since the 2017-18 season, and we are expecting case numbers to continue increasing as we move further into winter.”
The UKHSA has urged people to get their flu jabs, warning that uptake in young children is low while admissions in that age group are high. Fewer than four in 10 children aged two and three years old have been vaccinated, while admission rates in the under-fives have more than doubled in a week from 8.41 to 20.70 per 100,000.
Admissions for Covid also rose slightly in the past week, with a number of care home outbreaks, as health experts warned people to stay at home and avoid contact with others if they are unwell.
Hospital admission rates are highest in the South West, at 9.68 per 100,000 people, while flu hospitalisation rates are highest in London, where they have hit 14.24 per 100,000.
Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal, the consultant epidemiologist for immunisation and counter-measures at the UKHSA, said: “We’re seeing rises in flu, Covid and other winter viruses as people mix more indoors this winter.
“Covid hospitalisations are highest in the oldest age groups, so it is particularly important that everyone who is eligible continues to come forward to accept their booster jab.
“If you are unwell this winter, please try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people, particularly elderly or vulnerable people – this will help stop infection from spreading.”