Covid variant 'Eris' on rise in UK, as experts say country ‘flying blind’ on infection
A new coronavirus variant EG.5.1, nicknamed Eris, has been spreading across the United Kingdom and has brought the country's health officers on their toes.
The variant, which has descended from the rapidly spreading Omicron, was first flagged last month in the United Kingdom, reported news agency PTI.
The variant Eris is found in one of the out of the seven new coronavirus cases, said the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). As per the latest data, the cases of the Eris variant now account for 14.6 per cent of all cases, Sky News reported.
"COVID-19 case rates continued to increase this week compared to our previous report. 5.4% of 4,396 respiratory specimens reported through the Respiratory DataMart System were identified as COVID-19. This is compared to 3.7% of 4,403 from the previous report," said the UKHSA, in a report.
“EG.5.1 was first raised as a signal in monitoring on July 3, 2023, as part of horizon scanning due to increasing reports internationally, particularly in Asia,” it added.
“It was subsequently raised from a signal in monitoring to a variant V-23JUL-01 on July 31, 2023, due to the increasing number of genomes in UK data, and continued growth internationally. Declaring this lineage as a variant will allow further detailed characterisation and analysis,” it added.
UK is almost ‘flying blind’
In the wake of increasing coronavirus cases, experts have suggested that the UK is almost “flying blind” in the case of Covid this autumn.
Professor of operational research at University College London, Christina Pagel, while speaking to The Guardian, said that it seems like the onset of a new wave of Covid. She added that with the autumn coming on and people going back to school and work, Covid pressures are likely to increase.
“We might see the wave continue to grow, and grow faster, in September,” she stated. Pagel said that the nationwide infection survey, which was published by the Office for National Statistics for autumn and winter, should be brought back.
“What worries me most is if we get a repeat of the last winter NHS crisis this winter again, with Covid, flu and RSV all hitting around the same time. We are definitely flying near blind,” said Pagel.
An epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, Prof Rowland Kao, further emphasised the decline in surveillance.
“With seasonal flu, we have of course a certain amount of predictability with the many years of data. However, with Covid, now that we don’t have those multiple data streams to rely on, it’s harder to say what is happening (in the general population),” he stated.