COVID infections in England have doubled over the past month as two severely mutated variants have emerged.
Experts fear that the “Pirola” variant, known scientifically as BA.2.86, could infect those who have been vaccinated.
However, there is no evidence that the new bug is any more dangerous than previous versions.
According to the latest government statistics available, around 875 Britons were affected by the virus on August 11, up from 449 on July 11.
The latest statistics from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) also suggest hospital admissions have risen for the sixth consecutive week. In the week ended August 11, 2,171 people were admitted with the virus.
The rise in cases coincides with the arrival of the EG.5 strain ‘Eris’, which accounts for up to one in four cases in the UK.
But scientists are most afraid of Pirola, which is spreading quickly around the world due to its 36 different mutations.
UKHSA confirmed a case of BA.2.86 on Friday and said it was carrying out a “detailed assessment” to find out more.
Millions have already had the virus and the majority of Brits are also protected due to the major vaccination campaign.
However, scientists at the Center for Disease Control worry that the high number of mutations could mean it effectively bypasses immunity to vaccination and previous infections.
Covid has killed more than 6.9 million people worldwide since the pandemic broke out in 2020, with more than 768 million confirmed cases since the virus emerged.
The WHO ended the global emergency status for Covid in May this year.
Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for Covid, said EG.5 is more transmissible but no more serious than other Omicron variants.
She said, “We are not seeing any change in severity from EG.5 compared to other Omicron sublines that have been in circulation since late 2021.”
What are the five “red flag” symptoms of Eris?
According to the ZOE study, Eris is a strain of Omicron that has five distinctive traits.
- Runny nose
- fatigue (mild or severe)
- sore throat