The deadly ‘Kraken’ Covid variant along with another known as the CH.1.1 variant are set to become the dominant strains in the UK, experts say. The Kraken variant is better at evading immune defences, experts fear, and is sweeping across America.
The XBB.1.5 ‘Kraken’ variant has been surging in America in recent months, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says. And officials say two variants, CH.1.1 and XBB.1.5 – both part of the Omicron family – are now most likely to take over from BQ.1 as the next dominant variant in the UK.
It comes as data from the Office of National Statistics revealed the number of people likely to have had Covid over Christmas was a 2.9 million. That is more than double the number at the start of December – and the steepest total since mid-July.
Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at UKHSA, Dr Meera Chand said: “UKHSA is constantly monitoring the situation and working to understand the implications for public health. Through our genomic surveillance we continue to see evolution of variants in the Omicron family.
“Vaccination remains our best defence against future COVID-19 waves, so it is still as important as ever that people come forward and take up all the doses for which they are eligible as soon as possible.” ONS’s head of health surveillance, Michelle Bowen, said infections have increased across the whole of the UK, with high levels in Northern Ireland since March 2022.
“Across English regions, infections have increased in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, the East Midlands, the East of England, the South East and the South West.” “Cases have also increased in those aged two to school Year 6, and those aged 50 years and over.” she added.
It comes after Covid infection reach its highest peak since summer 2022. One in 20 people is likely to have caught Covid over the festive period, along with one in 18 in Wales and one in 16 in Northern Ireland.
What is the Kraken variant?
According to the respected Scientific American journal, Kraken is an Omicron subvariant that has “caught the attention of virologists in recent weeks because of its significant advantage in how fast it spreads”. The journal says it is “highly transmissible while retaining Omicron’s ability to evade the immune system”.
The New York Times says it is ‘highly contagious’ and “quickly spreading in the U.S.” Reporter Jonathan Wolfe said it “appears able to better evade immune defenses and invade cells, with some experts calling it the most transmissible variant yet. Scientists say it remains rare in much of the world, but they expect it to spread quickly and globally.” It presently accounts for around 28 per cent of cases in the States and about 72 per cent of cases in the north-east of America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.