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SAGE expert warns of new Covid wave in UK amid rise in cases

todayJune 15, 2022 1

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A new wave of coronavirus infections could “now be starting”, health experts have warned, as parts of the country have begun showing signs of a possible rise in cases. Many of those are compatible with the Omicron variant BA.1 and newer variants BA.4 and BA.5.

Independent SAGE scientist Professor Christina Pagel has warned there are four variants of Omicron “all increasing rapidly” at the moment, whereas the previous wave in March had two variants. It comes as coronavirus infections in the UK have risen for the first time in two months, WalesOnline reports.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have seen a “small increase” in cases of the virus – although the ONS describes the trend in Scotland and Wales as “uncertain”. However, Prof Pagel, from University College London, says she expects infections to jump later this month.

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She told a briefing of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies: “We will have a new wave of infections this month. Now hopefully it won’t be as high as the previous two waves and might be lower. But we can’t count on that and either way we are going to see more people becoming infected.”

She added: “It’s not a surprise that we have a new wave can see in the data. What’s happened is that people don’t want to look, and we’re kind of closing our eyes to it. This is now our third wave in six months. So we had kind of six months of Delta we’re now every two months of Omicron. The Omicron children are better than Omicron successively, that didn’t happen with Delta.”



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

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.

“Across all four UK countries, the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 compatible with Omicron variants BA.1, BA.4 and BA.5 increased in the week ending June 2 2022,” the ONS said.

The variants may have evolved to make them more dangerous by re-favouring infecting lung tissue, The Guardian reports. Omicron BA.1 is the original variant of Omicron that caused a surge in infections across the UK in December and early January.

BA.4 and BA.5 are newer variants that were recently classified by the UK Health Security Agency as “variants of concern”, after analysis found both were likely to have a “growth advantage” over BA.2, which is still the dominant strain in the country.

Initial findings suggest BA.4 and BA.5 have a degree of “immune escape”, meaning the immune system can no longer recognise or fight a virus, which is likely to contribute to their growth advantage over BA.2, the UKHSA said. Some 4,082 patients in England had Covid-19 on June 9, up 6 per cent on the previous week, while in Scotland 637 patients were recorded on June 5, the latest date available, up 8 per cent week on week.

Patient numbers in both nations had previously been on a steady downwards trend since early April, following the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave. In Wales and Northern Ireland, the figures for people in hospital with the virus have levelled off. Patient numbers across the UK remain well below the peaks reached during previous waves of the virus.

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