Covid: Hospital admissions likely to rise further due to subvariants, says health chief

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Covid: Hospital admissions likely to rise further due to subvariants, says health chief
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Covid hospitlisations are expected to rise further with cases being driven by two subvariants of the Omicron variant, a health chief has warned.

Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said it does not look as though the current wave has peaked, and urged people to “go about their normal lives” but in a “precautionary way”.

Dame Jenny told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “It doesn’t look as though that wave has finished yet, so we would anticipate that hospital cases will rise. And it’s possible, quite likely, that they will actually peak over the previous BA.2 wave.

“But I think the overall impact, we won’t know. It’s easy to say in retrospect, it’s not so easy to model forward.”

She said the majority of cases in the UK now are either BA.4 or BA.5 variants with the latter “really pushing and driving this current wave”.

Dame Jenny added that people should “go about their normal lives but in that precautionary way”, highlighting handwashing, keeping distance where possible and wearing a face covering in enclosed, poorly ventilated places.

She said she has not been routinely wearing a face mask, but she does routinely carry one and would wear it on the Tube and if she was with someone who was “quite anxious” about Covid.

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Speaking about masks, she said: “If I’ve got any respiratory infection it’s a good thing to do and I think it’s a new lesson for the country.”

Asked if it matters that a lot of people are getting infected with Covid, she said that aside from the effect on individuals, it also “matters on a national basis”.

“Whilst we have an armament now of vaccines and antiviral treatments, we do have, as you’ve just highlighted, a rise in hospital admissions and occupancy,” she said.

“And that means it’s not just Covid that we’re concerned about, but it’s actually our ability to treat other illnesses as well.”

The UK Health Security Agency chief executive’s comments come days after the latest figures showed Covid-19 infections in the UK had jumped by more than half a million in a week.

According to the Zoe Covid study, case levels in the UK are now approaching “record levels” due to the two strains.

A total of 2.3 million people in private households are estimated to have had the virus last week, up 32% from a week earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is the highest estimate for total infections since late April, but is still some way below the record of 4.9 million at the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave at the end of March.

Dame Jenny appealed to the “nearly 20% of the 75-plus year-old group” who have not had their spring booster to come forward.

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