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A new strain of the disease, BA.2.86, was detected in the UK on 18 August, having only been found in three other countries in the world so far: Israel, Denmark and the US.
There is currently just one confirmed case with the variant in the UK, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said in their latest update. The person has no recent travel history which they said “suggests a degree of community transmission within the UK”.
It comes after Omicron descendant, Eris, was recorded in the UK in July, as UKHSA said the variant was responsible for one in seven positive cases earlier this month.
The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency suggests that Eris, referred to as EG.5.1, represents 14.6 per cent of all cases, and is the second most dominant variant in the UK.
It comes as hospital admission rates have increased in all age groups, except those aged 15 to 24 years, the UKHSA said.
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.
With new variants making their rounds, it may be no surprise that Covid case rates have continued to increase in the week leading up to 12 August.
Between 6 August 2023 and 12 August 2023, 6,289 people had a confirmed positive test result in England. This shows an increase of 17.4 per cent compared to the previous 7 days.
The south east has recorded the highest number of cases in England with 1,084 in the most recent seven-day period.
Out of 6,209 cases, 744 were recorded in London alone. This compares to 795 in the whole of the south west of England.
The lowest number of cases were reported in the north east at 282.
Breaking down the data further, Hampshire has the highest number of cases recorded out of all the upper-tier local authorities in England and Wales with 192 cases.
Kent comes in second with 168 cases, while Essex is third highest with 158.
On the other end of the spectrum, Rutland has only one confirmed case of Covid-19 recorded in the latest seven-day period.
Data by UKHSA has shown that a total 7.1 per cent of 4,303 respiratory specimens reported through the Respiratory DataMart System were identified as Covid-19. This is compared to 5.4 per cent of 4,396 from the previous report.
Experts have attributed the recent rise to a number of different reasons, including waning immunity, increased indoor mixing, and even raised the possibility that cinema trips to watch popular movies like Barbie and Oppenheimer have caused the virus to spread.
Seven-day rolling average PCR positivity (%) of confirmed COVID-19 cases tested under Pillar 1 by age group
Independent Sage member Prof Christina Pagel previously told The Independent she believes the UK is “definitely starting another wave” driven by Omicron subvariants, Arcturus and Eris, waning immunity and poor weather.
She said: “The wet weather over the last few weeks probably isn’t helping either as it keeps people inside.”
The real concern, she said, is when summer holidays end and a more ‘normal’ routine gets going.
“It is likely to be dominant by September when kids return to school and adults to work or university, plus we start spending much more time inside,” she said.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the UKHSA said: “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.
“We urge everyone eligible to take up the vaccine when offered by the NHS this autumn.”