New COVID data shows that the number of people testing positive across the UK is starting to rise again after a drop in case rates for several months.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there were “early signs that the proportion of people testing positive for coronavirus could increase” during the week ending June 2nd.
The positive rates were most pronounced in the UK and Northern Ireland, where positive rates were 1 in 70 and 1 in 65, respectively.
And this is being driven by Omicron’s new sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.
A separate Imperial College study published on Tuesday found that omicron infection does not provide much immune protection against reinfection.
Should I be concerned as infection rates increase and the likelihood of reinfection increases?
Why does it happen again?
As COVID tests are no longer free and widely available, experts now rely on people’s responses to the ONS Weekly Infection Survey to see if cases are increasing or decreasing.
After several months of sharp declines, ONS data shows that the trend in Scotland and Wales is “uncertain” but shows positive rates flattening in each of the four countries at the end of May.
However, there has been an increase since then, largely driven by two new sub-variants of Omicron, a variant of interest (VOC) designated by the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) on 20 May.
Dr. Stephen Griffin, a virologist at the University of Leeds, told Sky News:
“There are some interesting changes in these two because of the increased antibody avoidance properties.”
The Imperial study, published this week, was conducted on 700 London healthcare workers from March 2020.
All three had been vaccinated, but Omicron reinfection rates were different.
This is because people’s protection against the new strain of COVID depends on a history of specific vaccinations and infection, a concept known as immunization or ‘original antigenic sin’.
Dr Peter English, a former consultant for Public Health England in the field of epidemic control, said:
“This means that if you are infected with a previous mutation and develop an immune response against it, your body essentially produces an original immune response when you become infected with the new mutation, which is wrong. It is a new strain that requires a different immune response. no see.
“We are starting to see signs of the case for these new omicron sub-transformations.
“So we may have been overly expecting it not to be.”
“The reason these strains are still spreading is because more and more people they can infect,” said Dr. Griffin. Because people who are already infected can become infected again,” he added.
May I call it ‘New Wave’?
The first omicron wave in the UK occurred in December, just after South Africa, followed by a second wave led by sub-variant BA.2 around March.
BA.2 still makes up the majority of UK infections and BA.3 remains mostly in South Africa, but the emergence of BA.4 and BA.5 in May is actually another wave, Dr Griffin says.
But, he added, “it’s hard to predict how big these waves will be.”
South Africa has already had a BA.4/5 wave and the case has already been flattened. However, it is completely different from what we experienced in Portugal, where the mortality rate is much higher.
“This speaks to the idea that over time it will become increasingly difficult to predict how countries will respond with one transformation or another,” he says.
“It’s because we have different patterns of immunity. We’re in a new era where that’s really important.”
Therefore, it does not seem useful to compare how BA.4 and BA.5 have affected different countries.
Should I be concerned?
The majority of Britons have returned to normal life, but if the number of cases rises again, the consequences will follow, Dr. English warns.
“Some people are still very anxious, but there are many who have decided they can’t deal with COVID-19 as if it doesn’t exist anymore. And that will mean more risks for all of us.”
A re-emergence of the virus could send clinically vulnerable people home and more people could develop Long COVID or more severe symptoms, he added.
Vaccination rates and immunity to vaccines have also weakened, and masks and quarantines are no longer compulsory, making it likely to spread faster than ever before.
Both scientists predict that, as in previous years, cases will increase as more time is spent indoors in winter.
However, Dr English adds: “We must not be complacent. Rates are rising very quickly here and in the United States.
“People will come back after summer break and school will be a contagious driver as it used to be.
“But I think we should be a little concerned for now.”
Read More: Beijing Blocked Due to Omicron Spikes Some US travelers no longer need to be screened
“The prevalence of this virus is important,” said Dr. Griffin. “It is unlikely to cause serious illness, but we will see Omicron deaths overtake Delta.
“Right now, there is no public health safety net that says, ‘This is going to happen if we don’t do this, and there’s something we can do to stop it.’
“And making sure every part of society can live with this virus is a smart move, not a lockdown, not a safety net.”
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