As winter approaches, health authorities in the United Kingdom have issued a warning for its citizens to prepare for another wave of COVID-19. The UK is currently experiencing a substantial increase in COVID-19 cases, primarily attributed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This resurgence of cases is notably linked to the emergence of a new variant, identified as BA.2.86, and informally referred to as the 'Pirola' variant.
The emergence of the BA.2.86 variant has led to a concerning development in the United Kingdom, with hospitalizations reaching a five-month high of 3,366 patients in England during the week ending October 6. This figure represents the highest number of hospitalizations since mid-April, signalling a significant and worrying surge in COVID-19 cases associated with this variant.
UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has claimed that the cases will 'further increase' as the season progresses, along with other 'winter respiratory viruses like flu'.
"This week's surveillance indicates a slight increase in COVID infection rates. As we enter the colder months and people begin to mix more indoors, we expect to see further increases in COVID," said Mary Ramsay, UKHSA's director of public health programmes, in a statement.
"We are monitoring rates closely and reminding people that when you have respiratory symptoms, you should avoid mixing with others, especially those more vulnerable," Ramsay said.
According to the latest update from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), England is currently seeing an average of 2,257 new COVID-19 cases reported daily. Concurrently, the country has initiated a vaccination booster campaign, primarily targeting the elderly and vulnerable populations.
The UKHSA's report reveals that, thus far, 3.9 million individuals over the age of 65 in England, constituting 35.3% of this demographic, have received the booster jab. This booster vaccine is being administered alongside the seasonal flu vaccine, a strategy designed to enhance the protection of vulnerable individuals against both COVID-19 and seasonal flu during the forthcoming winter season. This combined approach underscores the country's commitment to safeguarding the health of those most at risk.
Ramsay also requested those eligible to take up the jabs."We strongly urge parents and all those eligible, for either or both COVID and flu vaccines, to book today with the NHS or via their GP surgery as soon as possible," she added