Photo used for illustrative purposes.
Gulf Today Report
The Covid pandemic is not over, an expert has warned, after a rise in hospital admissions and infections in older age groups.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, sounded the alarm following the emergence of a more transmissible Omicron sub-variant.
While new data indicates cases have fallen substantially since the peak of the Omicron wave in January, infections in England are increasing among those aged 55 and over.
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Researchers suggest this could be down to mixing between age groups after the government’s easing of restrictions, and waning protection from the booster vaccine.
There has also been an increase in admissions to hospital, according to Professor Paul Elliott, director of Imperial College London’s React programme, which produces studies using swab tests from randomly selected people.
The findings led Dr Harries to warn the virus is expected to circulate “at high levels”. She said: “These data confirm that cases have declined substantially following the peak of the Omicron wave.
“However, the increasing presence of the BA.2 sub-lineage of Omicron and the recent slight increase in infections in those over 55 show that the pandemic is not over and that we can expect to see Covid circulating at high levels.
“Vaccination remains the best way to protect us all from severe disease and hospitalisation due to Covid-19 infection. We urge you to come forward for your primary or booster doses straight away if you have not already done so.”
The latest React-1 study shows around one in 35 people in England was infected with the virus between 8 February and 1 March.
Prevalence during this period was 2.88 per cent – down on the 4.41 per cent reported between 5 January to 20 January. But it was also the second highest recorded rate of cases since the study began in 2020.
Asked whether the increasing numbers of BA.2 could lead to a surge in new cases, Prof Elliott said the data needed to be tracked carefully.
“It is more transmissible,” he said. “We are seeing an uptick in infections, particularly in the older group, and we are seeing an uptick in hospitalisations.
“So I think what we say in our paper is that we really need to be monitoring closely the infection data through surveys, such as React, and we need to monitor the hospitalisations.
“At the moment, we’re possibly seeing the beginning of an uptick, but we don’t know where it’s going to go.”
The data has been published as a pre-print.