It is becoming increasingly evident that the next global Covid wave is building fast as Coronavirus is regrouping and growing rapidly in strength in dozens of countries around the world.
From Asia to Europe to South America, infection rates are rising, forcing dozens of governments and authorities to consider new measures.
Mask use is surging worldwide, while testing and vaccinations are also up.
In the UK, figures show Covid-19 infections in the UK are no longer falling, The rise is caused by a jump in infections compatible with the original Omicron variant BA.1, along with the newer variants BA.4 and BA.5.
It comes as separate figures suggest the recent drop in the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 may also have come to a halt.
Over in Asia, a pandemic of serious proportions is taking shape in North Korea, while cases are rising fast in Macau, the Philippines, Vietnam and China, among other countries.
Brokerage JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) said in a note on Sunday evening that the region is experiencing the “largest local outbreak in over two years.”
Meanwhile, down under, Australia is seeing a surge in flu cases even as the country continues to contend with the coronavirus, creating the spectre of a “twindemic” health crisis experts have been warning about.
Cases have been increasing rapidly in Australia since the end of April.
Over in Kenya, the government issued new, strict guidance yesterday, forcing Kenyans to start wearing masks again while in South Africa and a range of South American countries cases are also rising, albeit slowly.
Sub-variants have ‘immune escape’
As new omicron sub-variants are growing more prevalent, government messages are undermining the public health response to a potential new Covid-19 wave, experts warn today.
Omicron BA.1 is the original variant of Omicron that caused a surge in infections in December and early January.
BA.4 and BA.5 are newer variants that were recently classified by the UK Health Security Agency as “variants of concern”, after analysis found both were likely to have a “growth advantage” over BA.2, which is still the dominant strain in the country.
Initial findings suggest BA.4 and BA.5 have a degree of “immune escape” – meaning the immune system can no longer recognise or fight a virus – which is likely to contribute to their growth advantage over BA.2, the UKHSA said.
The latest estimates for Covid-19 infections come as separate figures show the recent fall in the number of people in hospital with the virus may have come to a stop.
Some 4,082 patients in England had Covid-19 on June 9, up 6 per cent on the previous week, while in Scotland 637 patients were recorded on June 5 – the latest date available – up 8 per cent week-on-week.
Patient numbers in both nations had previously been on a steady downwards trend since early April, following the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave.
‘Vaccinations are not enough’
Dr Chris Papadopoulos, Principal Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Bedfordshire, told City A.M. this morning that “in recent months governments have pushed the idea that we are past Covid-19 and that it isn’t something to be concerned about anymore, especially if we have been vaccinated.
”One of the key reasons people take action to protect themselves during a pandemic is if they feel threatened by the disease,” Papadopoulos explained.
“The recent uptick in infections shows what an enormous mistake this message was.”
Dr Chris Papadopoulos
He stressed: “It will have to admit that we aren’t past Covid-19, that these new sub-variants are dangerous for all of us – including vaccinated people – and that taking action by wearing masks, distancing in poorly ventilated areas, getting tested, isolating as necessary and being vigilant should be encouraged.”
“We know that these types of public health measures work so we should be trying to promote them, not undermine them and to do that we need to acknowledge Covid-19 is not over and is still very dangerous,” Papadopoulos continued.
“Vaccination is not enough. A key response for all future Covid-19 variants has to be to take a public health approach to managing the pandemic that is not overly reliant on vaccination and boosters.”
“The government are in danger of sleepwalking back into the bad old days of high Covid-19 infection rates and hospitalisations if we don’t put these public health protection measures back in place,” Papadopoulos concluded.