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Health chiefs declare two new Covid ‘variants of concern’, but experts say NO reason to panic

Two types of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 have recently been classified as variants of concern in the UK, but experts say there is no need to worry.

So far only a small number of cases of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 have been identified in Great Britain.

But the data suggests they are likely to have a “growth advantage” over the Omicron BA.2, currently the dominant variant, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

UKHSA said there could be many reasons why the new variants have a growth advantage over BA.2, but laboratory tests have indicated they likely have some ability to evade protection provided by previous infections and vaccines.

As of May 20, 115 cases of probable or confirmed BA.4 had been identified, with 67 in England, 41 in Scotland, six in Wales and one in Northern Ireland.

Some 80 cases of BA.5 have been identified, 48 in England, 25 in Scotland, six in Northern Ireland and one in Wales.

The news comes as the latest data shows Covid cases have continued to fall in England and the outbreak now hits its lowest level since mid-December last year.

Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, said there was no need to panic about the new variants as there is currently no evidence of increased disease severity.

“I also haven’t seen any indication of the severity being altered, so it’s not clear to what extent a wave might be followed by a surge in hospital cases,” he said.

“So disappointing news in the sense that it may reverse the current downward trend, but otherwise no real need to worry yet.”

So far, only a small number of cases of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 have been identified, but analysis of available data suggests that they are likely to have a

So far, only a small number of cases of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 have been identified, but analysis of available data suggests that they likely have a “growth advantage” over Omicron BA.2, currently the variant dominant, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)

Both BA.4 and BA.5 were originally spotted in South Africa earlier this year.  South Africa saw a recent spike in Covid cases in April, but now it appears cases are falling

Both BA.4 and BA.5 were originally spotted in South Africa earlier this year. South Africa saw a recent spike in Covid cases in April, but now it appears cases are falling

Dr. Kit Yates, a mathematical biologist at the University of Bath, highlighted how countries with significant waves of the new variants did not experience an increase in BA.2 cases as the UK did, but whether this remained to be seen. offered some additional protection.

Dr. Kit Yates, a mathematical biologist at the University of Bath, highlighted how countries with significant waves of the new variants did not experience an increase in BA.2 cases as the UK did, but whether this remained to be seen. offered some additional protection.

England’s Covid outbreak shrinks to its smallest size since mid-DECEMBER

Covid cases have continued to fall and the outbreak is now at its lowest level since mid-December last year, with just one million people infected in England last week.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that just over a million, or one in 55 people, had the virus on any given day of the week up to May 13. This is a weekly decrease of 1.2 million, or one in 45.

Similar drops were recorded in the other UK nations, with just one in 45 people in Scotland, one in 40 in Wales and one in 60 in Northern Ireland estimated to have the virus.

This is now the sixth week in a row that the ONS weekly survey, now the best barometer of the outbreak, is reporting a weekly drop in cases, despite no Covid restrictions in place.

The government is banking on the study, based on swabs from 120,000 random people, to track the virus now that free testing has been removed for the vast majority of Britons.

In all, infections are now about a quarter of what they were at the peak of Omicron’s recent wave in late March, when a record 4.9 million people were estimated to have Covid.

He added that it was possible that the new variants would be even smoother than Omicron, but added that only time will tell.

“It’s also possible that it’s another step in the virus’s inevitable journey toward trivial infection in an essentially immune population, in which case it may not need any particular attention,” he said.

UKHSA said further studies on the new variants are underway.

BA.4 and BA.5 were first detected in South Africa in January and February of this year, respectively.

Covid cases spiked in the country last month, although they have now started to fall.

Another British expert, Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, said current data showed current vaccines were resistant to new variants.

“Although there is no evidence of increased severity over earlier variants, BA.4 and BA.5 appear to be more transmissible,” he said.

“The good news is that current vaccines appear to be resisting these new variants and protecting against serious disease.”

However, he added that the appearance of these new variants showed the need to continue monitoring Covid cases for new versions of the virus, highlighting the need for continued surveillance of the virus through testing.

Dr Kit Yates, a mathematical biologist at the University of Bath, posted on Twitter that countries currently experiencing waves of new variants did not experience a rise in BA.2 similar to the UK.

This, he suggested, could mean that the older BA.2 infection might offer some protection against the new variants, but added that this has yet to be confirmed.

“Other countries that have experienced notable BA.4/BA.5 waves (Portugal and SA) did not have BA.2 waves of the same magnitude as ours,” he wrote.

“But it remains to be seen whether our BA.2 wave will mitigate the size of possible BA.4 and BA.5 waves to come.”

The UK’s decision to declare BA.4 and BA.5 as variants of concern follows that of European health authorities last week.

On May 13, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a report that BA.4 and BA.5 could lead to an increase in cases across the continent, with the risk of an increase in pressure from hospitals and ICUs.

The ECDC said that BA.5 is expected to be the most common Covid variant in Portugal by May 22.

EU health chiefs have warned that both new variants can evade immunity conferred by both a previous Covid infection and a vaccine, “particularly if this declines over time” and that countries should consider boosting their vulnerable citizens.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that just over a million, or one in 55, people had the virus on any given day in England in the week to 13 January. may.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that one million, or one in 55 people, had the virus on any day of the week up to May 13, up to levels last seen in mid-December despite no there were restrictions.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that one million, or one in 55 people, had the virus on any day of the week up to May 13, up to levels last seen in mid-December despite no there were restrictions.

This is down week over week from 1.2 million, or one in 45.

Similar drops were recorded in the other UK nations, with just one in 45 people in Scotland, one in 40 in Wales and one in 60 in Northern Ireland estimated to have the virus.

This is now the sixth week in a row that the ONS weekly survey, now the best barometer of the outbreak, is reporting a weekly drop in cases, despite no Covid restrictions in place.

The government is banking on the study, based on swabs from 120,000 random people, to track the virus now that free testing has been removed for the vast majority of Britons.

In all, infections are now about a quarter of what they were at the peak of Omicron’s recent wave in late March, when a record 4.9 million people were estimated to have Covid.

Last week’s covid numbers are now back to levels last seen in early December, when infections were just beginning to rise due to the spread of the original Omicron variant.

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