The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has issued a warning that two strains of Omicron from South Africa have been labelled “variants of concern” and could bypass vaccines and increase pressure on hospitals and ICUs.
The strains are able to evade vaccines and are likely to dominate Europe’s COVID cases by the summer, their report said.
The ECDC added that variants BA4 and BA5 could increase cases across the continent, and encouraged all countries to “remain vigilant” for signs that the strains were emerging –while encouraging over 80s to receive a second booster jab. It also advised countries to put plans in place for over 60s and other vulnerable groups to receive a second booster, reports the Daily Mail.
The BA4 and BA5 strains were first detected in South Africa in January and February respectively, where they have since become the dominant strain, while BA5 is expected to be the most common variant in Portugal by 22 May, according to the ECDC.
However, the report said there was currently “no indication of any change in severity for BA4/BA5 compared to previous Omicron lineages”.
It comes as COVID levels continued to crumble in England, falling to their lowest levels since the start of December before Omicron took off, although infection rates are still highest among 50- to 69-year-olds (2.6%) and over-70s (2.4%).
The Daily Mail reports that data have accrued suggesting the benefits of lockdowns were overblown and the wider consequences were underestimated. Children faced massive disruptions to their education during the pandemic, despite being at a vanishingly small risk of the virus. Psychiatrists have described the pandemic as the “biggest hit” to mental well-being in generations, following a record 4.3m mental health referrals in 2021.
Daily Mail article – Two strains of Omicron from South Africa are labelled 'variants of concern' by European health officials – who warn they could ignore vaccines and increase pressure on hospitals and ICUs (Open access)
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