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Caution urged as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the UK

Incidences of COVID-19 are rising, with a new variant having been discovered, The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has announced.

According to the organisation, COVID-19 case rates continued to increase this week compared to the previous report. A total 7.1% of 4,303 respiratory specimens reported through the Respiratory DataMart System were identified as COVID-19. This is compared to 5.4% of 4,396 from the previous report. Positivity for pillar one laboratory confirmed cases for week 32 was 10.8 per 100,000 population.

The overall COVID-19 hospital admission rate for week 32 was 3.00 per 100,000 population, an increase from 1.97 per 100,000 in the previous report. ICU admission rates have increased to 0.08 compared to 0.05 in the report. Hospital admission rates have increased in all age groups, except those aged 15 to 24 years.

‘The latest data shows that COVID-19 cases continue to rise. To help combat the spread of the virus, we continue to advise that anyone with symptoms of a respiratory infection should try to stay at home and away from others – especially those who are vulnerable. Hospitalisations are also increasing, but still remain at very low levels. ICU admissions have increased in this week’s report, but remain extremely low. We will continue to monitor these rates closely,’ said Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency.

‘We urge everyone eligible to take up the vaccine when offered by the NHS this autumn. Last week we announced the eligible groups available for the 2023 autumn booster. This includes those who are aged 65 years and over, those within a clinical risk group, or those who live and work closely with vulnerable people.’

The news comes as the UKHSA has announced that a new variant of the virus has been detected in the UK.
This variant was detected in the UK on Friday 18 August, and has also been identified in Israel, Denmark and the US. It has been designated as V-23AUG-01 for the purpose of UKHSA monitoring.

The newly identified variant has a high number of mutations and is genomically distant from both its likely ancestor, BA.2, and from currently circulating XBB-derived variants. There is currently one confirmed case in the UK in an individual with no recent travel history, which suggests a degree of community transmission within the UK. Identifying the extent of this transmission will require further investigation.

There is currently insufficient data to assess the relative severity or degree of immune escape compared to other currently-circulating variants.

‘V-23AUG-01 was designated as a variant on 18 August 2023 on the basis of international transmission and significant mutation of the viral genome. This designation allows us to monitor it through our routine surveillance processes,’ said Dr Meera Chand, Deputy Director, UKHSA.

‘We are aware of one confirmed case in the UK. UKHSA is currently undertaking detailed assessment and will provide further information in due course.’

According to the UKHSA, There is currently insufficient data to assess the relative severity or degree of immune escape compared to other currently-circulating variants.
‘Through our genomic surveillance we continue to see evolution of variants in the Omicron family. UKHSA is constantly monitoring the situation and working to understand the implications for public health,’ added Dr Chand.
Vaccination remains our best defence against future COVID-19 waves, so it is still as important as ever that people come take up all the doses for which they are eligible as soon as possible.’