According to the latest official data, COVID rates are starting to decline, but severe flu cases are increasing rapidly among young children.
The UK Health Security Agency’s weekly press conference on the two diseases presents a mixed outlook for the NHS, which is battling winter illnesses and a backlog of waiting lists.
Examination of hospital patients and medical staff showed that the COVID rate had dropped from 13.9 to 11 per 100,000 people in the last week.
This is an early sign that the COVID wave may be reaching a peak.
The proportion of patients in the hospital broadly reflects this proportion in the broader population.
But it will be a few more weeks before that is likely to appear in the community testing conducted by the Office for National Statistics, which has built-in latency.
A further concern for public health practitioners has been the rapid rise in flu cases over the past week.
Across the population, the flu-positive rate increased from 3.3% to 4.1%.
But the increase especially affects children.
Rates among five to 14-year-olds almost tripled from about 4% to 11% in one week.
And the hospitalization rate for children under 5 is currently the highest of any age group, with 2.79 per 100,000 children requiring treatment.
Preschoolers also had the highest rate of intensive care admissions – 0.32 per 100,000, twice as high as last week.
Dr Mary Ramsay, director of public health programs at UKHSA, said: “Our latest data shows early signs of the expected threat we expected. will face from flu this season.
“In particular, we urge parents not to worry too much as the rates of hospitalization and ICU admissions are currently increasing fastest in children under 5 years of age.
“This will be a concern for many parents and carers of young children, and we urge them to implement their recommendation to vaccinate eligible children as soon as possible.”
To date, only 12.1% of two-year-olds and 12.8% of three-year-olds have been vaccinated against influenza, significantly lower than the uptake rates at this time last year.
Dr Ramsay said the lower COVID rates could be a result of the fall immunity boost.
“However, there is no room for complacency, as cases can rise again at any time and we need to get ready through vaccination for all who qualify,” she said. .
“Don’t delay, please proceed with both COVID and flu shots as soon as you are offered.”