New Covid variant has unusual symptom - UK hospitalisations jump 30%

A member of the clinical staff wears personal protective equipment
-Credit: (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Scientists have sounded the alarm over a new Covid variant that is causing a surge in hospital admissions across the UK.

The KP. 3 variant, which emerged in early April, belongs to a new group of COVID-19 variants collectively known as FLiRT.

The name of these variants was inspired by the mutations found in their genetic code and they are an offshoot from the JN. 1 variant, which could transmit efficiently through one or two additional mutations.

As of April 2024, three strains of the FLiRT variant - KP. 1.1, KP.3 and KP. 2 - have been responsible for 40 per cent of all Covid cases in the UK, according to data from the UK Health Security Agency, reports the Mirror.

It's believed that the KP. 2 variant sparked a wave of infections in May before being overtaken by P.3, which has almost doubled UK infections to 44 per cent in less than a fortnight. Meanwhile, KP.2's share has dropped to 22 per cent. Hospital admissions increased by 24 per cent in the week leading up to Sunday, rising from 2.67 people per 100,000 to 3.31 per 100,000, based on new figures from the UKHSA.

The highest rate of hospital admissions for confirmed COVID-19 continues to be among those aged over 85 years, increasing to 34.70 per 100,000 after a brief period of decreases. However, there were also increases among those aged between 65 and 74 years, those aged between 75 and 84 years, and most younger age groups.

The dwindling immunity amongst the general public is considered a driving factor behind the variant's spread, with a leading scientist issuing a warning of a potential summer wave of Covid. Professor Lawrence Young, a Warwick University virologist, issued a stark reminder: "This is a wake-up call. The virus hasn't gone away and is certainly not a seasonal infection."

The expert further cautioned that Covid is far from vanishing and stressed it's "certainly not a seasonal infection."

Even though the number of infections recorded are not as high as those witnessed during the past spring, winter, or autumn, UKHSA data demonstrates an increase in the proportion of positive test results among those suspected of carrying the virus, rising by 19 per cent within a week, from 8.4 to 10 per cent. Professor Steve Griffin, of Leeds University, issued a warning: "Another wave [of Covid] is building."

He branded the spike in hospitalisations as worrying, particularly given that the reception of the spring booster jab amongst the vulnerable sectors has been lesser than in 2023.

He went on to add: "There is a considerable difference between the current vaccines and circulating viruses."

Concerns are growing across the Atlantic as well; since the start of June, KP. 3 has superseded KP.

2 and is currently responsible for 25 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the United States, harbouring close competition with its precursor accounting for 22.5 per cent of the cases.

The NHS website provides guidance for those displaying symptoms of COVID, which include fever, altered sense of smell, cough, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, or breathlessness, where you can find more information here.