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Jubilee weekend celebrations may have triggered new Covid wave in the UK, expert says

todayJune 15, 2022 1

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The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend earlier this month may have contributed to the rising cases of coronavirus infections being recorded across the country at the moment, an expert has said.

Dr Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, said the current spike in cases will likely continue until the autumn, which could have been boosted by the Jubilee celebrations as many people were off work and attended densely populated events, the Mirror reports.

It comes as coronavirus infections in the UK have risen for the first time in two months, many of those are compatible with the Omicron variant BA.1 and newer variants BA.4 and BA.5 – which appear more highly transmissible than the current dominant BA.2 strain.

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According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), data from up to June 2 indicates England and Northern Ireland are beginning to see a “small rise” in cases. However Dr Simon Clarke says it is too early to tell what impact it will have on hospitalisations, and more specifically on intensive care admissions.

A total of 989,800 people in private households in the UK are estimated to have had the virus in the week ending June 2, up from 953,900 the previous week, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It is the first time total infections have risen week-on-week since the end of March, when the number hit a record 4.9 million at the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave.

Speaking to the Mirror, Dr Simon Clarke said BA.4 and BA.5 – first identified in Africa in January and February – will likely eventually become the main strain in the UK, adding: “The way it [Covid] is going to continue to evolve is increasing transmissibility.

“Previously there’s been a lot of chatter about increased transmissibility meaning it’s less lethal. That’s absolutely not true. The lethality thing is something that could go either way. It could get less lethal, but it’s certainly not a guarantee.”

He added that another lockdown would be unlikely, unless there was a “jump in the biology of the virus” and it became more resistant to immunity or more aggressive in creating disease. He said: “There will be more infections, I would expect that there would be waves of people being unwell, sort of mass sickness,” he said, describing a worst case scenario. And there maybe an increase in people ending up in hospital.”

The newest mutations of the virus seem to have evolved to infect tissue much lower in the lungs, as did the earliest forms of the virus, making them more dangerous than previous versions of Omicron. In response to that, Dr Simon Clarke said: “We don’t really understand what that is down to.

“Is it because it is innately more aggressive? Or are the symptoms that we see in people, which are really what matters, down to waning immunity, for example. We perhaps had higher immunity when we had earlier versions of Omicron, and we know that immunity will be waning by now and is that why we get that difference?”

It is “entirely possible” the latest wave could continue to increase through the summer, he added, though if the weather is good and people spend more time outdoors “that should mitigate some of the effects. We don’t have a clear view, despite what some people will tell you, about what the effectiveness of seasonality is versus the effectiveness of immunity. I suspect the immunity is much more important and has a much bigger impact.”



People testing positive for Covid-19 in private households in the UK
People testing positive for Covid-19 in private households in the UK

The spring booster vaccine roll-out for people over 75 and those most vulnerable will help to fight against the spread and others “will have some residual immunity”, he said, “It’s like trying to fill up a bucket that’s got a leak, it’s going to constantly need to be topped up, probably.”

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