UK Covid cases surge following Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, new variants become dominant

A total of 1,739,700 people tested positive for the virus in the week to June 18, new estimates from the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown.

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LONDON — U.K. Covid-19 cases are on the rise again, according to new data, which points to an increase in infections following the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

A total of 1,739,700 people tested positive for the virus in the week to June 18, estimates from the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics  showed Friday.

That figure is up 75% from two weeks prior, before Brits celebrated the Queen’s 70th anniversary on the throne with a long weekend of street parties and social gatherings.

The uptick comes as the U.K.’s Health Security Agency said Friday that the latest technical data suggests two new Omicron variants — BA.4 and BA.5 — have become dominant in the U.K. and are driving recent increase in infections.

The two variants now make up more than half of new Covid cases in England, accounting for approximately 22% and 39% of cases, respectively.

“It is clear that the increasing prevalence of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 are significantly increasing the case numbers we have observed in recent weeks,” the UKHSA’s chief medical advisor, professor Susan Hopkins, said Friday.

UKHSA’s latest analysis suggests BA.5 is growing 35.1% faster than the previously dominant BA.2, while BA.4 is growing around 19.1% faster. That suggests that BA.5 is likely to soon become the dominant Covid variant in the U.K.

Both variants were designated “variants of concern” in May, though scientists said there is currently no evidence to suggest either causes more serious illness than previous strains.

However, health experts reminded people to ensure their vaccinations are up-to-date and to continue following Covid-safe behavior. That includes staying at home if you have any respiratory symptoms or a fever and limiting contact with others until you are feeling better.

Some 20-25% of people in the U.K. currently remain unvaccinated.

“As prevalence increases, it’s more important than ever that we all remain alert, take precautions, and ensure that we’re up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, which remain our best form of defense against the virus,” Hopkins said.

Cases and hospitalizations on the rise

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