Covid cases up 50 per cent in 10 days as new highly contagious Kraken subvariant sweeps UK
Tuesday 31 January 2023 8:33 AM UTC
LONDON Jan 31: Covid Kraken doubled its share of UK Covid cases in the first two weeks of January, accounting for 11 percent of cases by January 16. If it follows the same trajectory as in the US, its share will jump to 40 percent of cases by Sunday, according to the data.
In the US, Kraken, officially known as XBB.1.5, rapidly grew from 12 to 42 percent of cases in only three weeks.
The more quickly that a new variant increases its share of infections, the more contagious it is and increases the likelihood of it fuelling a new wave of the virus.
XBB.1.5 is more contagious than previous variants and due to a difference in its makeup it is better at evading immunity built up in the population as a result of vaccination.
It had been hoped that the UK could avoid the worst of XBB.1.5 as cases fell by well over a half in the first three weeks of January.
Ten days ago, daily symptomatic cases fell below 100,000 for the first time in over a year, falling to 85,000.
However, according to figures from the ZOE Health Study, cases have risen by 45 percent standing at 123,265 on Saturday.
Speaking to the i, Professor Danny Altmann from Imperial College London believes that XBB.1.5 is behind the surge.
Professor Altmann argued that the public may underestimate the threat that Covid still poses and would like to see more action taken to stop its spread.
He said: “I’m concerned that with XBB.1.5 we have another increment in transmissibility and immune evasiveness and our complacent reliance on established immunity may be misplaced.
“We have a country where uptake of the latest booster round in the over 50s has been poor, so we have a nation of rapidly waning defences.
“The situation in China reminds us that infection by Omicron subvariants is far from intrinsically mild in a poorly immunised population.”
Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick University argued that immunity could be “waning” as less than two-thirds of over 50s received a autumn booster.
He said: “We can expect fluctuations in covid infections from the circulation of more infectious variants such as XBB.1.5.
“There is also the impact of waning immunity, particularly as only 64.5 percent of those aged 50 and over have received the autumn booster.”
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