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Latest Covid hotspots in UK as new strain classified variant of interest

Lorraine: Dr Hilary warns of potential rise in Covid cases

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic a number of new strains of the virus have been detected worldwide. Some have emerged with little consequence, while others have led to huge spikes in cases and hospitalisations.

In September this year the JN.1 strain of Covid was first identified by health officials. Now the World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified it as a “variant of interest”, meaning it will be tracked.

The variant is a mutation of the BA.2.86 strain – also known as Pirola, which itself was descended from Omicron. As a result health bodies were wary about how transmissible it would be.

But currently, WHO has classified the risk of JN.1 as “low”. It said: “Based on the available evidence, the additional global public health risk posed by JN.1 is currently evaluated as low.”

Existing vaccines should be effective against severe disease and death from JN.1 and other circulating variants, the agency said. This comes as England has seen a rise in Covid cases ahead of Christmas.

READ MORE Experts sound alarm over concerning Covid mutation set to ‘dominate globe’

The most recent data, which covers the week ending December 9, shows Covid cases increased by 39 percent compared to the week before.

More specifically, there were a total of 5,975 cases in England in the seven days to December 9.

This equates to 10.6 cases for every 100,000 people in the region.

That’s up from 4,312 cases in the seven days to December 2, when there were 7.6 cases per 100,000 people.

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Separate data shows there were 203 new cases in Wales in the seven days to December 9, which is 6.4 for every 100,000 in the country.

This is also an increase, compared to 149 cases a week earlier, of 4.7 per 100,000.

To see how Covid is affecting where you live use our interactive map.

In England, Hastings had the highest Covid rate of any local authority in the country, with 28.1 cases for every 100,000 people in the area.

Hart in Hampshire had the next highest rate at 27.7. That was followed by South Cambridgeshire with 26.1, and Tandridge with 26.0.

Just two areas – Eden and Ribble Valley – had no cases at all.

As reported by Sky News earlier this month, Clare Bryant – professor of innate immunity at the University of Cambridge, said there was a risk that JN.1 could be more contagious.

“The change in the spike protein will probably correlate to it being more infectious,” she said.

But there has so far been no evidence of increased disease severity caused by JN.1, according to Prof Nicolas Locker, a virologist at the Pirbright Institute.

Speaking to Sky News, he said: “I think we’re just seeing the natural evolution of Covid and I don’t think there’s anything right now we should be overly worried about.

“These are very small changes in comparison to the ones between Omicron and the previous set of variants. And we haven’t seen a change in symptoms or severity.”

JN.1 is currently responsible for between 15 and 29 percent of Covid cases in the UK, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

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  • Posted on December 20, 2023