Professor shares advice on direction Covid wave is likely to head

Dr Hilary discusses possible Covid wave

As the UK heads into the autumn season, the bad weather sparks fresh fears of twindemic of flu and COVID-19.

The colder season usually sees everyone you know suddenly sneezing, sniffling or worse.

One of the reasons behind the boom in respiratory illnesses is that cold air damages the immune response occurring in the nose, combine this with more people flocking indoors and you’re left with a cocktail of germs.

However, this year we’re headed into autumn with Covid cases on the rise and two new variants, Eris and Pirola, already circulating around the country.

Therefore, spoke to Coventry University’s Associate Head of School for Health and Life Sciences, Dr Phillip Gould, about how Covid is likely to behave in the coming months.

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While the latest government data suggests that Eris, also known as EG.5.1, currently holds dominance, Dr Gould explained that more variants are likely to be thrown into the mix.

The expert in respiratory viruses said: “It’s likely that new variants will continually arise with SARS-CoV-2 in the future which will include this winter.

“We are seeing multiple variants annually already. 

“This means our immune systems are less effective at preventing infection, but [they] will be [still] able to reduce the likelihood of serious illness.”

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Dr Gould added that we can expect to see Covid cases surging alongside the cases of flu.

In the seven days leading up to September 16, the latest government data reported a total of new 10,195 Covid cases in England.

Currently, 37 of these cases were triggered by Covid Pirola, also known as BA.2.86, according to the UK Health Security Agency.

The highly mutated Omicron spin-off has 30 additional mutations in its spike protein compared to prior dominant strains. 

According to Dr Gould, this Covid variant could become “dominant” but also be replaced by a new strain by the next spring.

The professor said: “I wouldn’t be shocked if BA2.86 becomes dominant and then replaced by a new variant before spring 2024.  

“Vaccine rollout and infection rates will mean the population will force the new variant to mutate to escape our immune system.”

The expert added that this is a “constant cycle” with coronavirus and not a new form of behaviour.

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