New Covid FLiRT variant spreading as UKHSA issues 'stay at home' advice

A new Covid variant, FLiRT, is causing concern worldwide with the potential for a summer spike in infections.

This latest strain has evolved from the once prevalent JN.1 variant, which was an Omicron offshoot, and now the US is grappling with KP. 2 as the leading strain, making up 28.2% of cases in the fortnight leading up to May 11. Additionally, another FLiRT variant, KP. 1.1, has climbed to represent 7.1% of current infections, according to health authorities.

Epidemiology expert Jennifer Horney from the University of Delaware cautioned: "While our idea of what a wave of COVID-19 infections looks like has changed over the course of the pandemic, it is likely that these new strains will cause increases in the number of cases in the US over the next few months."


Speaking to CNBC, Ms Horney remarked: "Many will be mild, based on our existing immunity and not the changes to the circulating strain."

The World Health Organisation in its latest update earlier this month said that cases remain limited in all reporting countries. Individual countries, however are showing "slight increases in detections from very low levels."

The Health Security Agency said it is continuing to monitor data relating to the new variants in the UK and internationally, assessing their severity and the ongoing effectiveness of vaccines, reports BirminghamLive. "There is no change to the wider public health advice at this time," the agency said in an update.

If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as COVID-19, and you have a high temperature or do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out normal activities, you should avoid contact with vulnerable people and stay at home if possible, UKHSA said.

It added: "Vaccines remain our best defence against severe disease and hospitalisation from flu and COVID-19. That's why we're asking over-75s, those who have a weakened immune system, and anyone living in a care home for older adults, to come forward for their spring vaccination."