Covid is rising again in the UK – should we worry? It is understandable if you feel the need to heave a sigh of relief right about now. There is a lot going on, from the situation in Ukraine to the rise in prices of everything, and now the terrible problem of Covid is rearing its head once more.
Since the beginning of June, the number of persons sick in the UK has more than doubled, with almost 2.3 million people testing positive for the infection, according to the most recent numbers. It’s likely that you know someone who’s been affected by it.
Is it too late to enjoy the summer? After two and a half years of the epidemic, we are once again confronted with new strains of the virus, an increase in the number of illnesses, uncertainties about whether the NHS can keep up, and concerns about what this means for all of our lives. Additionally, it is providing us with a more distinct picture of what it will be like to coexist with Covid.
According to Linda Bauld, a professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, “We’re in a rough patch at the moment.”
“It’s incredibly disruptive to society, and some people are suffering terrible repercussions, but that’s still a very small percentage of where we were before,” she said.
The combined efforts of BA.4 and BA.5 are the primary contributor to the recent spike in the number of infections. Technically speaking, these two altered forms of the virus are sub-variants of the Omicron strain. The original Omicron had an incredible capacity for replication and the ability to subvert the immunological defenses that our bodies have developed to ward off infections caused by viruses. BA.4 and BA.5 are even better. It’s not as if we just danced our way into a new wave thanks to large summer events like the Jubilee celebrations or Glastonbury; their rise to prominence began before either of those festivals.
It has been described as “stunning” by Professor Danny Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College London, how much the virus is able to alter in order to continue infecting humans. When he saw the first scientific analysis of Omicron, which he saw the previous winter, he recalled thinking, “I felt like I’d just seen the worst horror picture on the globe and yet it continues bringing up worse ones.”
As a direct consequence of this, we are currently in the midst of yet another Omicron wave for this year, making it hard to believe that it is just July.
The findings of this study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. They demonstrated that BA.4 and BA.5 are able to “significantly escape” the protection offered by vaccination or infection. According to the findings of a study published in Science, the original Omicron was similar to a “stealth virus” that offered only little protection in the event that you encountered Omicron again.
Stories of people who have caught Covid more than once are becoming increasingly widespread as a result of the new sub-variants’ deceptive abilities and our diminishing immunity to the virus. In addition, there is a startling number of us, equal to one in every five, who have remained immune to Covid throughout the duration of the pandemic.
Prof. Mark Woolhouse, who researches disease outbreaks at the University of Edinburgh, adds that “[this virus] continues to surprise us in unpleasant ways.” One would have assumed that there would be more protection from one Omicron variation to another.
Nevertheless, it is evident that the most crucial form of protection, which is protection against becoming gravely ill, spending time in the hospital, and passing away, is still effective. If there had been 2.3 million cases prior to the development of vaccines, the National Health Service (NHS) would have been overburdened, and tens of thousands of people would have lost their lives. That is obviously not going to take place.
Nevertheless, despite this protection, BA.4 and BA.5 have the potential to still leave you feeling really harsh.
“I think it’s far from being a nasty cold,” says Professor Susan Hopkins from the UK Health Security Agency. She claims that people are “sick for between seven and 10 days.” “I think it’s far from a bad cold,” she says.
This can have repercussions for you if you are required to work (illness among employees in the NHS is another way the virus can put pressure on the health service) or if you have enjoyable travel plans in the works.
“What would you do if there were no teachers at your school? What would an airline do if there were no pilots? How are you supposed to put up with that? “enquires Professor Altmann.
The increasing number of instances will have a disproportionate impact on those who are clinically fragile and will leave behind cases of long-term covid.
We do not have any reason to believe that this strain of Omicron is any more or less harmful than the original strain, but we cannot say for certain.
There has only been research done on animals and in laboratories thus far. According to the findings of a study conducted in Japan, BA.4 and BA.5 can proliferate more easily in lung cells. In older instances of the disease, hamsters suffered from a more severe form of the sickness.
Since April, the UK Health Security Assessment has recorded a “small” increase in the number of infected people who require hospital treatment due to their infection. The reason for this is unknown, although it could be due to a decline in the effectiveness of vaccines or a change in the demographics of those who are becoming infected.
Prof. Woolhouse, who was one of the experts who showed that the original Omicron was less severe, said that “we haven’t seen definitive data” on BA.4 or BA.5 since we’re not gathering the same volume of information now. This is the case because we’re not collecting as much information.
Nevertheless, in order for HIV to have an effect on the NHS, the variations in question only need to infect a sufficient number of people. Even while only a small percentage of people end themselves in trouble, this nevertheless adds up to a significant number.
In hospitals across the UK, there are now 10,081 patients diagnosed with Covid, which represents an increase of around 2,500 in one week. Even though more than half of those patients will be there for causes unrelated to their mental health, such as a fractured bone or a stroke, it is still necessary to manage them.
According to Professor Hopkins, the chief medical advisor of the UK Health Security Agency, “I remain concerned, one more doubling [in numbers] brings the NHS into considerable trouble.” [I]n the UK Health Security Agency.
It is hoped that the United Kingdom will follow a path that is comparable to that of countries such as South Africa and also Portugal.
Professor Bauld is quoted as saying, “I think we should be positive. In some countries that are ahead of us, things are settling down, and these things burn themselves out when they run out of people to infect.”
On the other hand, it would appear that the theory that Covid will only transform into a winter bug is either incorrect or inaccurate in some other way.
Professor Woolhouse issues the following warning: “Every year we say this, and then it generates a wave in the summer, propelled by new varieties coming along more than once a year.”
Although the severity of the virus is beginning to resemble that of influenza, there is a key difference between the two: influenza only occurs once every year.
There is absolutely no enthusiasm in any political party to reinstate any limitations. The crucial choice that needs to be made in relation to the vaccination programme in advance of the following winter is going to be regarding who gets vaccinated, and equally as important, with what.
Pfizer and Moderna have both made announcements on new vaccines that target the Omicron strain that was first discovered; however, this strain is now considered to be obsolete.