Experts have warned that the UK is “blind” to new COVID-19 waves that have the potential to be devastating.
The warning comes just days after the Office for National Statistics revealed that infections have risen by 14% in a week, hinting that an autumn wave is upon us. In the week ending 20 September, more than 1.1 million people in the UK tested positive for the virus, up from 927,000 in the previous week.
What’s causing the wave is unclear, but experts say that the government’s guidelines on symptoms are “wrong”, which could mean those carrying the virus are spreading it without knowing.
“Many people are still using the government guidelines about symptoms which are wrong,” Professor Tim Spector, co-founder of the COVID ZOE app, told The Independent. “At the moment, COVID starts in two-thirds of people with a sore throat. Fever and loss of smell are really rare now – so many old people may not think they’ve got COVID. They’d say it’s a cold and not be tested.”
Spector went on to note that the next wave of the virus is already here, adding that variants of Omicron are becoming immune-evasive and could cause England “real problems” by winter.
Virologist Professor Lawrence Young agrees. “What we’re finding is the virus is evolving around the immunity that’s been built up through vaccines and countless infections people have had,” he said. “The biggest concern we’re seeing is that in early data these variants are starting to cause a slight increase in infections. In a way, this was to be expected but it does demonstrate that we’re not out of the woods yet at all with this virus, unfortunately.”
The expert also claims that the government’s Living With COVID plan has put the country at risk. “We’ve really taken our eye off the ball with COVID tests,” Young added. “We can only detect variants or know what’s coming by doing sequencing from PCR testing, and that’s not going on anywhere near the extent it was a year ago.
“People are going to get various infections over the winter but won’t know what they are because free tests aren’t available – it’s going to be a problem,” Young told The Independent. “Another angle is the economic pressure. If people do feel poor they’re not likely to take time off work. You have a perfect storm here, really, of inadequate surveillance, people not coming forward for vaccination and the economic situation.”
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.