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Summer COVID wave hits the UK

UKHSA continues to ‘monitor the variants’ to curb further spread but health professionals said it is not as ‘alarming’ as it once was

A new wave of COVID-19 has hit the UK, as cases have risen over the summer. UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data showed that COVID hospitalisations rose to 3.31 admissions per 100,000 in the week starting 16 June, compared with 2.67 per 100,000 in the previous week.

Danny Altman, professor of immunology at the Imperial College London said: ‘It’s obviously harder currently to collate definitive data on infections, but there seems to be consensus that we are in a period of rising breakthrough infections and hospitalisations. This is certainly a subject of ongoing concern and need for vigilance, not least in respect of advice on booster uptake for the vulnerable.’

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The summer wave has been linked to a new group of variants known as FLiRT, or Fresh Lineage of Rapid Transmission. They are descended from the dominant JN.1 variant, which is itself a sub-variant of the Omicron strain of COVID.

The UKHSA reported that symptoms include high temperature or shivering, a continuous cough, a loss or change to sense of smell or taste and shortness of breath. People with COVID may also experience a sore throat, a blocked or runny nose, loss of appetite and diarrhoea.

The health agency said it would continue to ‘monitor the variants’ and gather information gather information on the effectiveness of vaccines but health professionals said it is not as ‘alarming’ as it once was.

Paul Hunter, professor of epidemiology at the University of East Anglia said: ‘Generally what we've seen is that over the last three years, four years, the severity of illness associated with COVID has gone down a lot. Ultimately, it's going to become another cause of the common cold and, for many people, that's what it is now. To be honest, you can't really avoid it because it's so common.’

There are no new legal restrictions requiring people to self-isolate if they have COVID. But the UKHSA has advised people to take necessary precautions to avoid further spread.

‘If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or flu, help protect others by staying at home and avoiding contact with other people, especially those who are more vulnerable,’ said Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal, the UKHSA’s consultant epidemiologist.