COVID rates in Scotland have climbed for the second week in a row and are currently the highest in the UK, according to the latest surveillance by the Office for National Statistics. 

The ONS estimates that one in 45 people in Scotland had Covid in the week ending September 5, up from one in 50 and one in 55 over the previous two weeks. 

The figures are based on household sampling - excluding people in hospital and care home settings - to evaluate the prevalence of the virus in the community. 

Scotland is currently the only part of the UK seeing an increase in cases nationally, which may be linked to schools reopening in mid-August.

The highest virus rates appeared to be concentrated the the east of Scotland, including Dundee and Fife.

HeraldScotland: Scotland has seen a small uptick in virus rates over the past two weeks (Source: ONS)Scotland has seen a small uptick in virus rates over the past two weeks (Source: ONS)

According to the ONS, England is continuing to see a decrease while the trend in Northern Ireland and Wales was said to be "uncertain".

In England, the case rate was estimated at one in 75 compared to one in 110 in Wales and one in 55 in Northern Ireland. 

However, there is evidence of a recent uptick in cases and hospital admissions in patients testing positive for Covid in south-west England.

HeraldScotland: Virus rates appeared to be highest in the region covering Clackmannanshire, Fife, Falkirk, Stirling, Angus, Dundee, and Perth & KinrossVirus rates appeared to be highest in the region covering Clackmannanshire, Fife, Falkirk, Stirling, Angus, Dundee, and Perth & Kinross The apparent increase in virus rates in Scotland comes after the Scottish Government confirmed plans to stop routinely testing asympatomatic frontline NHS workers for Covid due to a "consensus that we are now in a downward trajectory from the most recent wave". 

The Scottish Government said regular testing would "pause" from September 28, but would be "kept under clinical review". 

The move followed similar changes to protocols in England, where testing of frontline hospital staff and patients, and care home staff and residents, was suspended from August 31. 

The majority of cases continue to be caused by the BA.5 sublineage of Omicron, which has comprised nearly 80% of all Covid cases sequenced in the UK since the end of June. 

However, the most recent report from the UK Health Security Agency, published on September 9, noted growing levels of two other Omicron sublineages. 

READ MORE: Cases of 'Centaurus' variant detected in Scotland 

This includes 100 cases of BA.2.75 - nicknamed Centaurus - confirmed by sequencing in the UK as of September 6, including seven cases in Scotland. 

Only a fraction of all positive cases undergo genomic sequencing, however, so the true figure will be much higher. 

Centaurus has already spread rapidly in India, but does not appear to have pushed up hospitalisation and death rates. 

A second sublineage, BA.4.6, which has a "small growth advantage" over BA.5 - meaning it is even more transmissible - has gone from making up around 3% of sequenced cases in mid-August to 9% now.

It carries a mutation which is known to make it easier for the virus to escape antibodies from prior infection or vaccination.