Experts have warned that Covid “hasn’t gone away” after an uptick in infections and hospitalisations that is thought to have been caused by new variants of the virus.

A group of Covid mutations has recently emerged and is collectively referred to as FLiRT.

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Covid hospital admissions increased by 24 per cent in the week to Sunday, with a rate of 3.31 per 100,000 people compared with 2.67 per 100,000 in the previous week.

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick University, said the figures should serve as a “wake-up call” to those who think the virus has gone away.

“The virus hasn’t gone away and is certainly not a seasonal infection,” he told the i newspaper. “A combination of new, more infectious virus variants and waning immunity is very likely contributing to these increased levels of infection. The hope is that this will not result in a big wave of infection, but we need to keep a close watch.”

Separate figures from the UKHSA show that 2,053 cases of Covid were recorded in the week to 12 June. This was an increase of 148 cases, or 7 per cent, on the previous seven-day period.

Hospitalisations were highest in those aged 85 years and over. Covid ICU admissions were “very low” but increased slightly to 0.12 per 100,000.

The agency said the term FLiRT was inspired by the names of the mutations in the genetic code of the variants, which descend from JN.1 with variant BA.2.86 as a parent.

According to the UKHSA, three strings of the FLiRT variant called KP.1.1, KP.2 and KP.3 were responsible for 40 per cent of all Covid cases in the UK in April this year.

KP.2 drove a spike in cases over the spring, and KP.3 appears to be fuelling the beginning of a summer surge.

A spokesperson said: “UKHSA continues to monitor data relating to new variants both in the UK and internationally, assessing their severity and the ongoing effectiveness of vaccines. There is no change to the wider public health advice at this time.”

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2024-06-22T15:53:13Z dg43tfdfdgfd