The UK's top medical experts are baffled by a new mystery strain of Covid, with some calling for the country to reintroduce restrictions.
According to expert Christina Pagel, who is a member of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, the strain has been spotted in Israel and Denmark.
As yet unnamed, it is thought that it has many new mutations, making the virus “fitter” and more capable of escaping the immune system.
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It also has “entirely new abilities”, and has been designated the code, variant BA.X.
She wrote, in the British Medical Journal: “There are two major concerns.
“The first seems, unfortunately, quite plausible – a repeat of last winter’s unprecedented NHS crisis of Covid, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus hit all around the same time, especially with 50-65 year olds now not being offered either the flu or Covid vaccine this autumn.
“The second is less likely but would have a bigger impact – another Omicron-like event where a new variant emerges, very different from previous strains so that our hard won protection is much less protective.
“The last couple of days have seen a new, as yet unnamed, variant show up in Israel and Denmark which has caught the attention of many experts.
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“Given few, if any, mitigations worldwide and much lower surveillance, such a variant could spread a long way before we realised it was a problem.
“It is still quite possible that this fizzles out – either because its hosts don’t happen to infect anyone or because, despite its novelty, it does not outcompete the current dominant XBB strains.
“However, this should act as a reminder that without ramping up surveillance, and in the face of waning immunity, we are travelling into winter more vulnerable and with blinkers on.”
The UK lifted all remaining Covid-related restrictions over a year ago, in March 2022.
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And free mass testing was killed off on April 1 in the same year.
However, with a new threat on the horizon, and with UK cases rising sharply in recent weeks, some are calling for mask wearing restrictions to return.
Trisha Greenhalgh, a Primary Care expert from the University of Oxford tweeted: “It looks like it's once again time to MASK UP”.
And Professor Stephen Griffin said that the new strain was “reminiscent of the first emergence”.
The Daily Star has reached out to Downing Street for a comment.
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