Infections appear to be on the rise in over 55s as the BA.2 Omicron variant spreads, with experts warning that the pandemic is not over yet despite Boris Johnson’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan
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The Covid pandemic is not over yet and the latest increase in the number of cases is a cause for concern, experts say.
Infections appear to be on the rise among older adults as social activity increased after last month’s Freedom Day, vaccine immunity waned and BA.2 – a more contagious strain of Omicron – spread.
Although BA.2 is more contagious than BA.1, clinical data do not show a significant difference in disease severity.
Wednesday saw the number of recorded infections increase by more than 50 percent and deaths by two-thirds from the previous week, according to data from the Department of Health.
The number of people hospitalized also increased sharply, with 11,639 people being hospitalized with the virus on March 8 and 275 requiring mechanical ventilation.
The worrying numbers come just weeks before the government plans to scrap free lateral flow tests for most people on April 1.
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Free PCR tests will also not be made available to people with symptoms as the government implements its ‘Living with Covid’ plan, introduced on 24 February.
Data from a study by the Imperial University React-1 team shows that around one in 35 people (3%) in the UK were infected between 8 February and 1 March – with the virus being particularly prevalent. in people over 55 years of age.
This decrease of 4.41% was recorded between January 5 and 20, but is the second-highest rate since the study began in 2020.
Data on React-1 comes from nearly 100,000 swabs from homes across the UK.
It shows infections have dropped since the January peak but the scientists involved say the R value, or average number of infections, remains below 1 for people 54 and younger.
But for those 55 and older, it stands at 1.04.
Experts are investigating whether hospitalization rates are driven by “unmasking,” where some of the most vulnerable have returned to normal after two years of self-isolation.
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Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive officer of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), told Sky news: “These data confirm that cases have dropped significantly after the peak of the Omicron wave.
“However, the increasing presence of Omicron’s BA.2 sub-lineage and the recent slight increase in infections among people over 55 years of age suggest that the pandemic is not over yet and that we can expect see high levels of circulating COVID.”
Professor Paul Elliot, React program director at Imperial College London, said: “We may be seeing the beginnings of an increase, but we don’t know where it will go. “
Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said it was “impossible to make reasonable predictions” about the size of any BA.2 wave but the situation needed to be closely monitored.
I said Guardians : “The worrying thing is that it’s hard to see anything happening in the next few weeks that could reverse the development of BA.2 unless, on the other hand, people decide on their own account to step up measures. preventive measures.”
Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial University, said the recent increase was foreseeable.
“We’re going to see a lot of this, along with recent spikes in Scotland and Hong Kong,” he said.
“Caseload isn’t low or under control as we’ve gotten through all of the mitigations and, when you add in weakened immunity and enhanced BA.2 transmissibility, it looks like it. We are in a difficult period, especially for the elderly. ”
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