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The highly mutated Covid variant BA.2.86, also known as Pirola, is circulating through the country as Covid cases surge once again.
The latest government data reported 11,668 new cases in England, 328 in Wales, and 1,615 in Scotland in the seven days leading up to September 8.
Pirola has caused 37 confirmed cases so far, including an outbreak in a Norfolk care home.
Cases have been registered in the east and north of the country, with seven people being hospitalised with the new variant.
However, the first ever identified case of the Omicron spin-off was in a person with no recent travel history, suggesting a degree of community spread.
READ MORE Professor shares eight Covid Pirola variant symptoms that ‘might be more severe’
Dr Hana Patel, NHS GP & Medico-Legal Expert Witness, told Express.co.uk: “There is some degree of widespread community transmission, both in the UK and globally.”
Despite the high number of mutations in Pirola’s spike protein, it remains unclear how severe or transmissible the new variant is.
According to a report, published in the British Medical Journal, there is currently “not enough evidence to know if the variant has altered clinical severity or will predominate in the UK”.
However, Dr Patel still recommended crucial interventions that could help protect you from Covid.
Although wearing a face covering is no longer mandatory, it remains to be one of the “most important” weapons in your arsenal of protection against the virus.
Dr Patel said: “Face coverings help by catching the small droplets we sometimes spread when we talk or cough. These can contain coronavirus and land on surfaces and other people.
“If you have COVID-19, even without any symptoms, and are not wearing a face covering the risk of spreading it to others nearby can be as high as 70 percent.
“If you wear a face covering, the risk of spreading it drops significantly.”
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Therefore, the doctor recommended wearing face masks in crowded or enclosed spaces where the virus can spread more easily for those more at risk.
The Covid jabs can help cut your risk of catching and spreading the virus or getting seriously ill, the NHS explains.
The doctor shared it’s crucial for those who are eligible to come forward to receive their autumn booster as soon as they can.
Currently, the eligible groups for the Covid vaccine include those:
- Aged 65 years old or over (you need to be 65 years old by 31 March 2024)
- Aged six months to 64 years old and at increased risk or living in a care home for older adults
- A frontline health or social care worker
- Aged 16 to 64 years old and a carer
- Aged 12 to 64 years old and live with someone with a weakened immune system.
3.Cover your mouth when you cough
According to the UK Health and Security Agency, covering your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze could also help curb the spread.
The health body recommends using a tissue you can throw away to do this.
The UKHSA said: “Put it in the bin after you have used it. Make sure you wash your hands straight away and use hand sanitiser.
“If you do not have a tissue, you can cough or sneeze into your elbow. Do not use your hand.”
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