BRITAIN is on the precipice of a “devastating” new Covid wave this winter, experts have said.
A new surge in infections is being driven by inadequate testing and the rise of a little-known new symptom.
Covid-19 infections in the UK have risen 72 per cents since last month, according to the latest figures by the ZOE app.
There are currently an estimated 176,090 new daily symptomatic cases of Covid in the UK.
Previously, fever and loss of smell were some of the most common symptoms of the virus.
But now, a sore throat is the most common sign of Covid.
Professor Tim Spector, co-founder of the Covid ZOE app, told The Independent many people are still using the government guidelines about symptoms “which are wrong”.
“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,” he explained.
Prof Spector also early data showed new subvariants of Omicron were becoming immune-evasive and could cause the UK “real problems” as winter approaches with the NHS “already on its knees”.
University of Warwick virologist, Professor Lawrence Young, also said that two Omicron subvariants – BA.2.75.2 derived from BA.2, and BQ1.1 derived from BA.5 – were showing signs of being able to escape the immune system.
The Omicron strain has been found to be milder than others that came before it.
“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 explained.
Prof Young also warned that the downscaling of Covid testing means the UK is “blind” to the behaviour of new potential variants of concern.
Since April 2022, most people in England have to pay around £2 to check if they have the virus.
“We’ve really taken our eye off the ball with Covid tests,” he said.
“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.
The expert urged people to get their booster jabs, noting that the new bivalent vaccine boosters tackle multiple variants — which is ‘key to preventing a devastating wave’.
Meanwhile, the Government has also called for millions of Brits to get Covid and flu vaccines before a winter “twindemic” virus surge.
The UK Health Security Agency said more than 30 million people are eligible for one or both jabs.
NHS director of vaccinations and screening, Steve Russell, said: “The vaccine is still our best protection against this difficult virus and with the number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 on the rise once again.
“I urge anyone eligible for the autumn booster to book their latest dose without delay through the NHS website or by calling 119, and help protect yourself and your loved ones this winter,” he added.