Health authorities must take urgent action to prepare for an autumn when further waves of Covid-19 cases could spread across the UK.
That’s the stark warning from scientists and doctors after last week’s numbers revealed another dramatic jump in the number of cases. In the week ending June 24, more than 2 million people across Britain were found to be infected, an increase of more than 30% from the previous week.
And while most experts said they expected the current wave — powered by the Omicron BA4 and BA5 variants of the virus — to peak in a few weeks, they also warned that it will inevitably be followed by another wave this fall. . “Our current planning assumptions are that we will see at least one wave [of Covid] into the autumn-winter period, once we’ve weathered the current wave we’re in,” said Susan Hopkins, chief medical officer at the UK Health Security Agency.
This view was supported by virologist Prof. Lawrence Young of Warwick University. “We must now prepare 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.”
An important part of these preparations will be the selection of those vaccines best suited to counteract the next big wave of the disease. Moderna, Pfizer and other drug companies are all working on vaccines that target different Omicron variants in different ways.
“However, it is up to the government to decide which of these versions is best for the country,” said Prof Adam Finn of the University of Bristol. “Officials will likely be influenced not so much by data showing which formulation appears most promising in addressing the new variants, as by the company that appears most able to deliver the right number of vaccines on time.”
This point was supported by Prof. Francois Balloux, Director of the Genetics Institute at University College London. “Obviously, if you wait until the last minute, you’re most likely to design a vaccine that’s best able to tackle the most common variant, but you don’t want to risk losing production. time to deliver adequate doses.”
However, Covid-19 is not the only health threat looming on the horizon. Scientists have warned that pandemic measures — particularly the imposition of a lockdown — used to contain Covid-19 have likely left the public vulnerable to other illnesses such as flu.
Finn said, “Basically, we haven’t infected each other with the flu for two years and so we haven’t built up an immunity to it.”
He added: “As a result, we are now more vulnerable to flu and we are likely to see winter peaks this year, possibly major ones. Indeed, flu could prove to be a much bigger problem than Covid-19 this winter. For this reason I think It is crucial that we give the Covid fall booster vaccine at the same time as the annual flu vaccine for people over 65.”
Other factors that may affect the nation’s well-being this winter is the cost of living. “It could inadvertently help reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus if people can spend less time in crowded indoor recreational spaces such as shopping malls and movie theaters,” said virologist Julian Tang of Leicester University. “On the other hand, the inability to heat homes, along with increased circulation of viruses, will exacerbate hospitalizations from the disease.”
Stephen Griffin of Leeds University also insisted that a comprehensive continued vaccination plan was needed for the UK, one that was mainly aimed at younger age groups.
“Although much less common than in adults, based on the previous wave, we can expect that the very high prevalence of Omicron will unfortunately lead to a significant number of juvenile hospitalizations and long-term Covid, the impact of which on a young life is soul-destroying. †