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Leading Covid expert gives his early predictions for Christmas as ‘swarm of Omicron strains threaten winter’

AS Covid cases continue to increase across the UK, one leading expert has given his early predictions for Christmas.

Over the last two years, the festive season has been heavily disrupted for Brits wanting to celebrate – due to the spread of the bug.

Professor Tim Spector of Kings College London and the expert behind the ZOE Symptom Tracker app has said we could see a fresh wave in January

Scientists have also this week warned of a so-called ‘swarm’ of Omicron strains that could threaten winter.

However, Professor Tim Spector of Kings College London, who is the expert behind the ZOE Symptom Tracker app has said we could see a fresh wave in January.

Data from the app currently states that on a daily basis, 215,576 cases are being reported – this is down nine per cent from Sunday, October 9.

Prof Spector said cases could drift down to as low as 80,000 a day in the coming weeks – claiming that infections in this latest wave have peaked.

Speaking to the i, he said he has ‘no idea’ why they have done this – but said it’s good news for those looking to gather during the festive period.

“But it means we probably will have a few weeks’ respite as the rates drop until January, so at the moment it’s looking like we might have a relatively peaceful Christmas, which is one time in particular when you do want rates to be low,” Prof Spector added.

However, he said the next peak, which could be witnessed in January, may exceed previous records of 350,000 daily cases.

The most recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published this week revealed that deaths with Covid have risen by 39 per cent in the last week.

It comes as infection rates jumped by 30 per cent last week – with several areas becoming hotspots.

The Omicron strain is still the main variant circulating in the UK and has found to be milder than others that came before it.

The mammoth rollout of vaccines across the country has also meant that millions of Brits have been protected from severe illness caused by Covid.

But medics have now warned of a triple threat of Omicron subvariants that could cause havoc – as they may be able to escape immunity.

Experts in Singapore have warned over the XBB substrain – which is thought to be down to a rise in cases in the area.

This, medics say, could rule alongside strains named BQ.1.1 and BA.2.75.2.

While they all seem to be off-shoots of Omicron, each one may have the ability to dodge defences already in places, such as vaccines.

Last month there were concerns over BA.2.75 in South Asia, then there was concern around B.A.4.6 and BF.7 in the US.

This along with the threat from XBB means many scientists are worried about the possible potential for this viruses to infect and harm more people.

Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London said: “These lineages are going to have a greater ability to reinfect people than what is currently circulating … which is very likely to drive or contribute to infection waves over the winter.”

However, another expert, Professor Danny Altmann, of Imperial College London, said vaccines and prior reinfections could hold up better than anticipated.

Prof Altmann told the i: “Some of the worst-case scenarios – that BA.5 is so immune-evasive that people simply get reinfected over and over with no simple upper limit to the caseload – are looking unfounded. It looks like some protection from transmission through prior infections, vaccinations and boosters is kicking in.

“Before I start counting any chickens, though, I’ll be watching for (a) impact of winter and (b) encroachment of other subvariants.”



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