London: A BA.2 sub-lineage of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, named a “stealth variant” by experts due to the absence of certain genetic changes that can distinguish this variant easily from others, remains at a high level even as coronavirus infections decline across England, a latest study reports on Thursday. Experts behind the long-running Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT-1) study in the UK warn that Omicron is keeping infection rates still very high and the possibility that they are rising in older adults may be cause for concern.
The analysis by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, based on around 95,000 swab tests taken between February 8 and March 1, showed that the highest rates of BA.2 were found in London. It’s encouraging that infections have been falling across England, but they are still very high and the possibility that they are rising in older adults may be cause for concern, said Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT program from Imperial’s School of Public Health.
The good news is that this is a highly vaccinated group, however a high number of infections will lead to more people becoming ill, so it’s important that people continue to follow public health guidance to avoid fueling further spread of the virus, he said.
The study results show that around 1 in 35 were infected during this period, or 2.88 per cent of people. This is the second highest the study has recorded since it began testing in May 2020, but represents a drop from previous findings when 1 in 23 had the virus in January, or 4.41 per cent. The Imperial team read the genetic codes of the virus from 1,195 positive samples, finding that all but one were the Omicron variant or the offshoot sub-variant BA.2, with the other being Delta. Almost half (47.2 per cent) were the BA.2, which is a variant under investigation in the UK. This marks a substantial increase from the study’s previous findings when 0.8 per cent were BA.2 in January, and suggests that this sub-variant spreads more easily than other circulating variants. Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKSA), warned that the latest data shows that the pandemic is not over and precautions were still required.
These data confirm that cases have declined substantially following the peak of the Omicron wave. However, the increasing presence of the BA.2 sub-lineage of Omicron and the recent slight increase in infections in those over 55 show that the pandemic is not over and that we can expect to see COVID circulating at high levels, said Harries.
Vaccination remains the best way to protect us all from severe disease and hospitalization due to COVID-19 infection. We urge you to come forward for your primary or booster doses straight away if you have not already done so, she said. UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid added: “It is reassuring to see that COVID-19 cases have continued to fall as we learn to live with the virus and regain our freedoms. We must continue to protect each other where necessary. Vaccines remain our best line of defense against the virus. If you haven’t already, please Get Boosted Now. The scientists estimate that the reproduction number (R) of COVID-19 was slightly below 1, at 0.94, for England. This means that 10 infected people would pass the virus onto around nine others on average, indicating a slightly shrinking epidemic.
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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realized the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.