New Covid warning as mysterious JN.1 variant ‘takes off’ in UK and Europe

A NEW “more transmissible” strain of Covid has taken off, experts warn.

It comes as cases of the bug have fallen in the UK.

The new variant could become a significant public health issue


The new variant could become a significant public health issueCredit: Getty

The JN.1 variant has been discovered in the UK, US, Iceland, Portugal, Spain and France, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Scientists say JN.1 is a descendant of BA.2.86 – dubbed the “Pirola” variant, which took over after Omicron.

They fear the new variant could become a significant public health issue – but hope new vaccines will halt the spread.

But more severe illness hasn’t been found in people infected with the new variant.

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Dr Thomas Russo, professor and chief of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo in New York, told “There is some data that suggest JN.1’s parent BA.2.86 may be more transmissible than previous variants.

“Since JN.1 is a derivative of BA.2.86, there is a concern that it may be more transmissible.”

“The updated vaccine is closer to JN.1 than our old vaccine; the hope is that, even if we see more cases with JN.1, the updated vaccine will protect against severe disease.”

So far, there have been 51 cases of JN.1 reported worldwide across 11 countries.

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Dr Thomas said it was particularly “taking off” in France, where cases were “increasing in frequency”.

A new mutation of the virus appears to have made it much more transmissible, he said, and the new strain is “much more immune evasive than its parents”.

In the week leading up to October 28, infections fell by 1 per cent across the UK, according to UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data, while hospitalisations also fell.

What are the most common Covid-19 symptoms?

The ZOE Health Study has kept track of the most common symptoms caused by Covid-19, tracking how they’ve changed over time and what new symptoms emerge.

It said symptoms flagged in 2020 as ‘typical’ of the virus – such as loss of smell, shortness of breath and fever – are much less common.

Instead, it said the top 10 symptoms reported by people with positive Covid-19 tests are:

  1. A sore throat
  2. A runny nose
  3. A blocked nose
  4. Sneezing
  5. A cough without phlegm
  6. A headache
  7. A cough with phlegm
  8. A hoarse voice
  9. Muscle aches and pains
  10. An altered sense of smell

Brits urged to get jabbed before hols

Some 8.6million eligible Brits have have had their Covid booster.

But millions of those at risk of serious illness – including pregnant women and those with ongoing health conditions – have yet to take up their free dose.

Dr Mary Ramsay, of the UKHSA, said: “Nobody wants to miss out on the festive celebrations with their friends and family this winter, and the vaccines provide the best protection.

“I urge all those eligible to join the millions of others who have taken up their free vaccine offer to get winter strong.

“Don’t put it off; book your appointment today and arm yourself against the risk of severe illness.”

Who is eligible for a Covid vaccine?

Those eligible for an autumn Covid vaccine include:

  • residents in a care home for older adults
  • all adults aged 65 years and over
  • persons aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, as laid out in the Immunisation Green Book, Covid-19 chapter (Green Book)
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • persons aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts (as defined in the Green Book) of people with immunosuppression
  • persons aged 16 to 64 years who are carers (as defined in the Green Book) and staff working in care homes for older adults

Source: The NHS

The NHS says you might be able to look after yourself at home if diagnosed with Covid.

You’re no longer required to do a rapid lateral flow test if you have symptoms.

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But if you or your child test positive for Covid-19, it advised you:

  • Try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for three days after the day the test was taken if you or your child are under 18 years old – children and young people tend to be infectious to other people for less time than adults
  • Try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days after the day you took your test if you are 18 years old or over
  • Avoid meeting people who are more likely to get seriously ill from viruses, such as people with a weakened immune system, for 10 days after the day you took your test