The number of people with Covid-19 in hospital in the UK has fallen to its lowest level since autumn, in a further sign the virus is becoming less prevalent.
A total of 6,879 patients were in hospital as of May 18, down 23% week-on-week, Government figures show.
It is the first time the number has dropped below the levels recorded throughout the winter, when the original Omicron variant drove a surge of infections across the country.
It is also the lowest total since October 9 2021.
The figures have been falling steadily for several weeks, having climbed as high as 20,544 on April 6.
The trend reflects the drop in the prevalence of the virus over the past month, as reported by the Office for National Statistics in its regular infection survey.
An estimated 1.5 million people in private households in the UK were likely to have had Covid-19 in the week ending May 7, down from 2.0 million the previous week and a record 4.9 million at the end of March.
Despite the rise in patients during the original Omicron wave, and again in the more recent Omicron BA.2 surge, hospital numbers this year did not come close to matching the level reached during the second wave of the virus, when they hit 39,256 in January 2021.
This reflects the success of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, in particular the booster jabs rolled out in the autumn and winter of last year.
Boosters are estimated to have prevented around 186,600 hospital admissions among people aged 25 and over in England between December 13 2021 and April 17 2022, according to the UK Health Security Agency.
This includes approximately 162,300 people aged 65 and over.