Experts warned that inadequate surveillance of new variants and a decrease in testing could reduce ability to tackle a new wave

UK ‘blind’ to new immune-evasive Covid variants creating ‘perfect storm’ for devastating wave

Covid cases increased for the second week in a row (PA Archive)

The UK is heading into a “devastating” Covid wave this autumn exacerbated by a drop in testing and inadequate surveillance of new immune evasive sub-variants, experts have warned.

Covid-19 infections in the UK have risen 14 per cent according to the latest figures.

Some 1.1 million people in private households tested positive for coronavirus in the latest survey, which covers the seven days to 17 September in England and the week to 20 September in the other three nations, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It is the first time the UK-wide total has been above one million since late August, though it is still some way below the 3.8 million weekly infections in early July at the peak of the wave caused by the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the virus.

Professor Tim Spector, co-founder of the Covid ZOE app, told The Independent the UK was already at the start of the next wave of coronavirus.

“It looks like we’re in the start of the next wave and this time it’s affected older people slightly earlier than the last wave,” Prof Spector said.

He added: “Many people are still using the government guidelines about symptoms which are wrong. At the moment, Covid starts in two-thirds of people with a soar throat. Fever and loss of smell are really rare now – so many old people may not think they’ve got covid.

“They’d say it’s a cold and not be tested.”

Prof Spector said early data showed new subvariants of Omicron were becoming immune evasive and could cause the UK “real problems” as winter approaches with an NHS “already on its knees”.

University of Warwick virologist, Professor Lawrence Young, said two Omicron subvariants – BA.2.75.2 derived from BA.2 and BQ1.1 derived from BA.5 – were causing concern in early data and showing signs of being able to escape the immune system.

UK ‘blind’ to new immune-evasive Covid variants creating ‘perfect storm’ for devastating wave

Experts fear rising Covid hospitalisations could put the NHS under further pressure

(PA Wire)

“What’s interesting about these variants is that although they’re slightly different in how they’ve come about they’ve come up with the same changes to get around the body’s immune system,” Prof Young told The Independent.

“What we’re finding is the virus is evolving around the immunity that’s been built up through vaccines and countless infections people have had.

He added: “The biggest concern we’re seeing is that in early data these variants are starting to cause a slight increase in infections. In a way, this was to be expected but it does demonstrate that we’re not out of the woods yet at all with this virus, sadly.”

Prof Young also warned that the downscaling of Covid testing laboratories since the unveiling of the government’s Living with Covid plan means the UK is “blind” to the behaviour of new potential variants of concern. Major NHS “Lighthouse” labs closed earlier this year in line with the government’s policy on the infection.

“We’ve really taken our eye off the ball with Covid tests,” he said. “We can only detect variants or know what’s coming by doing sequencing from PCR testing and that’s not going on anywhere near the extent it was a year ago.

“People are going to get various infections over the winter but won’t know what they are because free tests aren’t available – it’s going to be a problem. Another angle is the economic pressure. If people do feel poorly they’re not likely to take time off work. You have a perfect storm here, really, of inadequate surveillance, people not coming forward for vaccination and the economic situation.”

Both professors called for stronger and more proactive messaging from the government ahead of the colder winter weather, while Prof Young called for the return of mask wearing in poorly ventilated and crowded indoor spaces.

UK ‘blind’ to new immune-evasive Covid variants creating ‘perfect storm’ for devastating wave

Flu cases are also rising earlier this autumn

(EPA)

Additionally, public health experts have called for booster jabs uptake to increase, with Prof Young noting that new bivalent Covid vaccine boosters, that tackle more thna one variant, were key to preventing a devastating wave. But he conceded that there were still question marks around how effective the immunisation would be in keeping vulnerable people from becoming very sick.

Immunologist Professor Denis Kinane, who founded Covid testing firm Cignpost Diagnostic, also raised concern about the lack of free testing and surveillance of new variants.

“While cases are currently on their way up, we do not yet know the full extent of what is coming in autumn and winter. However, with mass-participation events like the football World Cup taking place in November, international travel growing rapidly, differing vaccination levels across the world, and with most countries having relaxed entry requirements, a rise in cases and emergence of newer variants cannot be ruled out,” Prof Kinane told The Independent.

Sarah Crofts, ONS deputy director for the Covid-19 infection survey, said it was “too early to identify whether this is the start of a new wave”.

Dr Mary Ramsay, director of public health programmes at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said it was “clear now that we are seeing an increase” in levels of Covid-19.

“Cases have started to climb and hospitalisations are increasing in the oldest age groups. In the coming weeks, we expect a double threat of low immunity and widely circulating flu and Covid-19, creating an unpredictable winter and additional pressure on health services,” she added.

The number of people in hospital with coronavirus throughout 2022 has remained well below levels seen in 2020 and early 2021, before the rollout of vaccines.

Video: Immigration minister Robert Jenrick says migrants with diptheria symptoms WON'T be allowed to leave Manston processing centre - or will be sent to Covid-style isolation hotels - as he confirms 50 cases among asylum seekers

Prince Harry's ex-girlfriend Cressida Bonas gives birth to her first baby and is pictured pushing pram while strolling in West London

Bombshell as two Aussies WIN their Supreme Court case over Covid fines - and it means as many as 45,000 penalties could be struck down

Irina Shayk looks anything but basic in all black as she picks up her daughter from school amid rumors she and Bradley Cooper are reconciling

George Takei calls William Shatner 'a cantankerous old man' in latest salvo in long-running feud between former Star Trek costars

Video: 'We are keeping an eye' on Twitter, Karine Jean-Pierre says: White House confirms they are monitoring Elon Musk's takeover and rise in users after being pressed on whether it will be a source of misinformation

One of Australia's most high-profile TV doctors and Australian of The Year winner Dr James Wright dies at the age of 94

‘I pulled his ass’: Billie Eilish discusses how she ‘locked down’ boyfriend Jesse Rutherford

Thousands sign petition to remove Michelle Mone from House of Lords

Holland, Ecuador and Senegal are all scrapping for two knockout spots heading into Group A's final matches… so, who will top the group and who would England rather face?

Kevin Spacey books first role since winning sexual battery lawsuit brought on by actor Anthony Rapp... five years after being digitally replaced by Christopher Plummer in All the Money in the World

Prince Harry's ex-girlfriend Cressida Bonas, 33, gives birth to her first baby

Love Island contestant is caught driving a golf buggy drunk after cops spotted him cruising down a busy Gold Coast highway

Candace Cameron Bure UNFOLLOWS Jodie Sweetin after announcing plans to work with a network that solely depicts 'traditional marriage'

Thousands sign petition to expel Michelle Mone from House of Lords

Video: White House REFUSES to condemn China's crackdown on COVID protesters chanting 'freedom' - as US embassy urges Americans to keep a TWO-WEEK supply of medications, water and food at home because of threats of strict lockdowns

NEWS RELATED

Dr Michael Watt report finds “significant failures” in patient care

Brain scan stock image A watchdog report into the treatment of a number of people cared for by Consultant Neurologist Michael Watt has found “significant failures”. The 44 patients were treated by Dr Watt whose work became the basis of Northern Ireland’s largest ever patient recall. In June, the ...

View more: Dr Michael Watt report finds “significant failures” in patient care

Another school sends kids home and brings back mask mandates as Covid madness strikes South Australia once again

Masks have been reintroduced at two Adelaide primary schools as a fourth Covid-19 wave runs rampant across Australia. Health authorities have ordered staff and adult visitors at Noarlunga Downs and Salisbury Park primary schools to wear masks after students and staff were struck down with the virus. Noarlunga Downs has ...

View more: Another school sends kids home and brings back mask mandates as Covid madness strikes South Australia once again

Video: Rishi Sunak is set to scrap ban on new onshore wind farms after Cabinet minister hinted PM would give in to Tory backbench revolt including Boris Johnson and Liz Truss

Video: Portugal 2-0 Uruguay: Fernando Santos' side seal World Cup progress and maintain winning start thanks to Bruno Fernandes' double... but should opening goal have been Cristiano Ronaldo's? 

Stylist: These are the exact outfits you should pack for a summer holiday - and one rule you must follow every time

Award-winning stylist Melissa Murgana shared what to pack for summer holidayMelissa shared capsule holiday wardrobe consisting of basics and occasion wearYou need to think about wearing something three different ways for successMelissa packs things like dresses in solid and printed colours so she has options

View more: Stylist: These are the exact outfits you should pack for a summer holiday - and one rule you must follow every time

Video: Goals galore on Manic Monday! Armchair fans are treated to 11 goals in two THRILLING matches, including one Goal of the Tournament contender - and there's still Ronaldo's Portugal to come!

Joe Biden's non-binary drag queen nuclear waste guru Sam Brinton, 34, is charged with THEFT after they were 'caught on camera stealing a bag' from Minneapolis Airport’s baggage claim

Sam Brinton, 34, whose full title was as the DOE's deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition is accused of taking a suitcase from an airportBrinton was caught on surveillance cameras at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport taking a blue bag off baggage claim after flying in from Washington A woman reported the bag missing later that day and Brinton was identifiedBrinton claimed to have not taken the bag but then changed their mind admitting to removing the case adding it was by mistake because they were tiredIf found guilty they could now face five years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both 

View more: Joe Biden's non-binary drag queen nuclear waste guru Sam Brinton, 34, is charged with THEFT after they were 'caught on camera stealing a bag' from Minneapolis Airport’s baggage claim

Trump calls Special Counsel a 'hit man for Obama' and 'fully-weaponized monster' in rant claiming his family compared his election win to 9/11 and asking if the FBI will ever 'invade' Bill and Hillary Clinton's home

Trump attacked the special counsel,  who was named by AG Merrick GarlandJack Smith former headed up DOJ's Public Integrity SectionTrump called him a 'fully weaponized monster'He also said he 'did nothing wrong on January 6th'DOJ probing government documents at Mar-a-Lago and election overturn effort Trump complained about the search 'When will you invade Bill and Hillary’s home in search of the 33,000 emails?'Comes after conservative allies tried to paint Smith as partisan 

View more: Trump calls Special Counsel a 'hit man for Obama' and 'fully-weaponized monster' in rant claiming his family compared his election win to 9/11 and asking if the FBI will ever 'invade' Bill and Hillary Clinton's home

Video: Democrat Chuck Schumer calls Trump 'disgusting' for having dinner with 'notorious bigot' Nick Fuentes - as more Republicans pile in and insist he does NOT represent the party 

Matt Shirvington buys $11.2m home in Sydney's North Shore - amid rumours he is set to replace Kochie as Sunrise host

From BDSM with a 90210 star to love with a billionaire's ex: 'Big angry Aussie' Dominic Purcell's very racy relationship past exposed as he begins romance with Miley Cyrus' mother Tish

Patricia Arquette, 54, exudes glamour in figure-hugging gown as she arrives at the 2022 Gotham Awards in NYC

Belgium's World Cup goes from bad to worse as it emerges Kevin de Bruyne, Jan Vertonghen and captain Eden Hazard 'CLASHED in heated dressing room altercation' after shock Morocco defeat, with 'Romelu Lukaku having to separate the trio'

Video: EXCLUSIVE: 'Outback Wrangler' Matt Wright is spotted on a plane out of Sydney with his wife and newborn as he flies to Darwin to face charges over fatal helicopter crash - as shock new details emerge 

The White Lotus star Aubrey Plaza flashes her midriff in stylish ensemble as she leads the red carpet glamor at the 2022 Gotham Awards in NYC

Juventus Chairman Agnelli resigns with entire board

Video: 'Why are women being blamed for a MAN'S mistake!' Julia Fox defends Kim Kardashian amid Balenciaga ad campaign scandal in bizarre video where she appears to be NAKED

Kendall Jenner shows off her toned abs in black camisole and shorts amid claims she is talking to ex Harry Styles following Devin Booker split

Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein will NOT testify at his Los Angeles rape trial - case could go to jury by week's end

Are these Australia’s worst tenants? Landlords take you inside their home to show you the trash and wreckage left behind by 'renters from hell'

OTHER NEWS

Breaking thailand news, thai news, thailand news Verified News Story Network