Shirley Ballas provides update on how she's coping with COVID

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The Government has been warned as Europe could be “swarmed” by new subvariants of the coronavirus, which could drive a fresh wave across Europe by the end of November. Cases are currently soaring across the country, which has even led to a return of pandemic-era face mask mandates at some NHS hospitals. Early data has revealed, new subvariants of Omicron have been “evolving around the immunity” that was built up over the past year through vaccinations and Covid infections. The number of people in hospital in England with coronavirus stood at 7,024 on September 28, up 37 percent week on week.

In July, patient numbers peaked at 14,000 as health officials were grappling with a wave of the BA.4/BA.5, after which they started to fall steadily.

The Biozentrum research facility at the University of Basel, which has been studying the evolution of the virus since the outbreak began in 2019, warned that there is a “collective” of subvariants that are showing an ability to spread rapidly.

The researchers fear that variants like BQ1. and BA.2.75.2 are among the new strains that could trigger a “significant wave” as the colder weather persists.

Cornelius Roemer, a computational biologist with Biozentrum, told The Independent: “The trends we’re seeing at the moment are very different from what’s happened in the past. Omicron was maybe the first variant that was good at evading immunity and that’s why it caused such a large wave.

“Omicron was maybe the first variant that was good at evading immunity and that’s why it caused such a large wave. Now for the first time, we see many lineages, many variants emerging parallel that all have very similar mutations and that all manage to still evade immunity pretty well.

Mr Roemer, who analyses Covid sequencing data from different lab databases around the world, warned that the current surge in cases will present a new challenge for researchers because for the first time there isn’t a standout variant of concern but rather a “swarm” of subvariants.

He said that the situation surrounding new subvariants was rapidly evolving, as another mutation-XBB- was detected in China this week, and is so far believed to evade immunity.

When compared to previous waves of the deadly virus, he noted that the new strain would likely resemble the unexpected BA. 5-led summer wave, but warned that cases are increasing rapidly.

Once a variant is responsible for 50 percent of cases in total, it begins to spread a lot faster. Fortunately, the UK is far from that point, as the new strains are only responsible for 5-10 percent of new cases. 

He said: “That’s what’s a bit worrying. That we already have cases going up and we know that there will be another surge due to the variants.”

As cases begin to climb, at least eight NHS trusts have announced a return to wearing face masks in the hospital. Great Western Hospitals in Swindon, East Lancashire, Rotherham, Hampshire, East Suffolk and North Essex, Barnsley, King’s Lynn in Norfolk, and Gloucestershire are all affected.

Giles Thorpe, the trust’s chief nurse and director of infection prevention and control, said the need to “enhance infection prevention and control measures” was due to a rise in coronavirus cases.


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He said: “That is why we are asking visitors to do their bit again now and help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our hospitals by wearing a surgical face mask when they visit.

“We appreciate face masks are no longer required in many areas of our day-to-day lives, but our hospitals are not the same as a supermarket or a restaurant.

“Many of our patients are already extremely unwell and could be at higher risk of serious illness if they pick up COVID-19. If you cannot wear a surgical face mask, we can offer you a visor as an alternative.”

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