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Fears over Covid spike as sales of tests shoot up

Slight increase in cases of virus as well as hospital admission rates seen by surveillance systems

Tara Cobham
Saturday 29 July 2023 18:44 BST
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Matt Hancock says Tory government approach to Covid was 'completely wrong'

Fears of a spike in Covid cases have been ignited as sales of tests have shot up by a third.

Health officials have said they are closely monitoring rates as an increase in cases as well as hospital admissions have been seen by surveillance systems, while people are experiencing more coughs, sore throats and headaches.

Estimated case numbers jumped by almost 200,000 this month, from 606,656 predicted cases on 4 July to 785,980 on 27 July, according to The Zoe Health Study, which estimates figures for UK Covid infections.

Meanwhile, coronavirus test sales in Boots were 33 per cent higher in the week ending 22 July compared to three weeks earlier, according to the retailer.

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, told The Telegraph the reported rise in cases is “probably the tip of the iceberg as routine testing is no longer freely available”. He added: “It shows something we all know, that the virus is still lurking and that it is dangerous to be complacent.”

He said a decrease in immunity gained from previous infections and vaccinations is likely to be among the factors contributing to the increase in cases. “It’s a long time since many folk had their booster jabs,” said Prof Young. “And the poor weather in July may have encouraged crowding in poorly ventilated spaces.

“This all highlights the problem with ‘living with the virus’. As the virus spreads, it will inevitably result in serious infections in the most vulnerable and it will also increase those suffering the burden of the long-term consequences of infection. This doesn’t bode well for this coming autumn and winter.”

It comes as MailOnline reported scientists have discovered a coronavirus variant that could be the most mutated strain ever recorded. The morphed version of the Delta variant, which was collected from a patient swab in Jakarta, Indonesia, has 113 unique mutations, according to a report on Friday. Of these alterations, 37 affect the spike protein, which is what enables the virus to latch onto humans.

At its monthly board meeting on Thursday, the NHS set out how it is preparing for the potential of higher than normal levels of respiratory illness – including Covid, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – this winter.

Another Covid booster campaign for the autumn is also being planned by health officials, although it has not yet been decided who will be eligible.

After fortnightly official statistics were released, Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal, consultant epidemiologist for immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Covid-19 cases and hospital admission rates remain at low levels, though have risen very slightly in the past two weeks.”

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