Covid in Leeds: Rising numbers test positive for new variants in city amid plea 'the virus has not gone away'

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The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in Leeds is increasing, according to new figures, as experts warn that "the virus has not gone away".

New data published today (24 June) by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that Covid rates across the UK are on the rise.

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It comes as the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron strains of Covid have now become the dominant form of the virus.

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Covid-19 cases in Leeds are rising. Inset, Dr Mike Gent.Covid-19 cases in Leeds are rising. Inset, Dr Mike Gent.
Covid-19 cases in Leeds are rising. Inset, Dr Mike Gent.

In the week to 18 June, the ONS estimated that 2.69 per cent of people in Leeds had Covid (one in 35).

It was a rise of 0.3 per cent compared to the week before (2.3), when one in 45 people were estimated to have tested positive for the virus up to June 11.

Rates across the UK

Meanwhile, the figures show 2.5 per cent of people in England had Covid (one in 40).

It stood at 2.3 per cent for Wales, 3.3 per cent in Northern Ireland and 4.8 per cent in Scotland.

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The estimates are based on random PCR samples from private households across the UK. It excludes people living in communal housing such as care homes.

Warning from experts

Dr Mike Gent, from the UK Health Security Agency in Yorkshire and the Humber, warned people to "play our part" in helping to keep the virus at bay.

He said: "It’s been a number of months since the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and we are all enjoying a bit more normality after a challenging two years which impacted all corners of our life.

"As we now look forward to life without restrictions and head into the social summer holiday period, we must keep in mind the virus has not gone away.

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In fact, in recent weeks we have seen a rise in cases in Yorkshire and the Humber, with a shift in the dominant strain from the Omicron BA.2 variant. The latest data indicates Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 now account for more than half of rising COVID-19 cases in the UK and are driving the recent increase in infections."

Dr Gent said we had been "fortunate" that so far the rise in cases has not seen an increase in hospital admissions or deaths.

He said that was "down to how well the vaccines work" and "incredible efforts" of people across the country.

Dr Gent said: We’ve learned so much in the last two years, but as we move to living with covid on a long-term basis, every one of us needs to remain vigilant, take precautions and ensure we’re up to date with our COVID-19 vaccinations. We need to continue to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and vaccination is the best form of defence we have. It’s never too late to get vaccinated.

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"Remember we can all play our part: stay at home if you have any respiratory symptoms or a fever, and limit contact with others until you are feeling better, particularly if they are likely to be at greater risk if they contract COVID-19."

He urged people to continue wearing face coverings and keep washing their hands.

He added: "Meeting others outside is much safer than indoors as the fresh air helps to blow the COVID-19 particles away. So, make the most of the warm weather over the summer and meet family and friends outside. Or if you meet indoors, let the fresh air in by opening doors and windows.

"Let’s enjoy the summer and our regained freedoms but keep in mind COVID-19 hasn’t gone away and we all need to do our bit to live safely."

Dominant Covid variants

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New data published yesterday (23 June) by the Wellcome Sanger Institute shows BA.4 and BA.5 became the dominant Covid strains in England in the week to 11 June.

Of the 953 positive PCR tests successfully analysed, 547 were found to be either BA.4 or BA.5, 57 per cent of the total.

In the previous week, they made up 42 per cent of cases.

BA.4 and BA.5 are sub variants of the Omicron variant, and were designated as ‘variants of concern’ by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in May.

They have been blamed for a new wave of infections in the UK, with hospital admissions also rising sharply in recent weeks.