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Latest wave may be levelling out but fears grow over new Omicron strain ‘Centaurus’


Booster doses have been recommended for those aged 60 to 79

Booster doses have been recommended for those aged 60 to 79

Booster doses have been recommended for those aged 60 to 79

The number of patients with Covid-19 in intensive care rose to 46 yesterday, the highest since the middle of April.

There were 1,035 people with the virus in hospital last night as the summer wave continued to trigger infections and put pressure on services.

The seven-day positivity rate is at 38.1pc which could indicate the wave has plateaued.

It comes as concern grows about another form of Omicron which has arrived in the UK.

The BA.2.75 variant, which has been nicknamed “Centaurus”, was first detected in India in early May.

It has since rapidly gained ground there.

In Ireland and much of Europe it is the BA.5 form of Omicron and also BA.4 which are primarily driving infections.

BA.2.75 has also since been found in around 10 countries.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has designated it as a “variant under monitoring”. It said that BA.2.75 is a newly designated sub-lineage of BA.2, mainly circulating in India but also detected in Germany, Luxembourg, the UK, Indonesia, the US, Canada, Nepal, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

The BMJ reported that Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said: “The significant rise in infections is worrying and demonstrates that there’s no room for complacency as far as Covid is concerned.

“It’s a wake-up call about our vulnerability to new variants.

“We need to prepare now for the autumn and winter months when colder weather will drive people indoors, increasing the risk of infection not only with new Covid variants but also with other respiratory virus infections,” he added.

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“Waning immunity means that booster shots will be necessary in the autumn to protect the elderly, clinically vulnerable and patient-facing healthcare workers.”

Stephen Griffin, an associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, said that this large increase in infections was “sadly predictable” given the past weeks showing the growth advantage of BA.4 and BA.5 over BA.2 and the R-value remaining above one across the country.

“The constant bombardment of waves we are seeing does cause clinical impact that is not to be underestimated.

“The lack of a sharp peak for hospital admissions and deaths doesn’t change the overall area under the curve over time.

“We should also expect for these measures to lag behind the rapid increase in cases,” he said.

The ECDC and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are recommending that second booster doses of mRNA Covid vaccines be considered for people between 60 and 79 years old and people with medical conditions that put them at high risk of severe disease.

But at the moment, there is no clear evidence to support giving a second booster dose to people below 60 years of age who are not at higher risk of severe disease.

Neither is there clear evidence to support giving early second boosters to healthcare workers or those working in long-term care homes unless they are at high risk.

Last April both agencies recommended that people over the age of 80 years should be considered for a second booster.

However, the agencies noted at the time that it might be necessary to consider second boosters in people between 60 and 79 years old, and vulnerable people of any age if there was a resurgence of infections.

Authorities now consider that people aged between 60 and 79 as well as vulnerable people of any age should get a second booster.

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