Top Covid symptoms affecting people right now as UK infections rise for first time in five weeks

The virus is becoming more prevalent and Covid hospital cases are starting to climb

Covid infections have increased for the first time in five weeks in England, new figures show.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest the virus is once again becoming more prevalent, after a brief period of decline at the start of the year. The number of people in hospital with Covid is also starting to rise.

Figures from the ONS show an uptick in infections across the country, with 1.02 million people in private households in the UK estimated to have had the virus in the week ending 31 January. This is up 8% from 941,800 cases in the previous week. However, not all parts of the UK are seeing an increase as infection in Northern Ireland have continued to fall, while the trend is unclear in Scotland and Wales, the ONS said.

The recent rise in cases comes following a surge at the end of December when infections peaked at 3.0 million. While this number was high, it was still well below the levels reached in previous waves, including in spring 2022 when the weekly total climbed to a record 4.9 million.

Michelle Bowen, ONS head of health surveillance, said the data shows “a mixed picture across the UK”, adding it is “too early to say if these changes mark an overall change in recent trends in infections we’ve seen.”

The recent spike in cases is thought to have been fuelled by a new variant dubbed the ‘Kraken’. Officially named XBB.1.5, the strain is a “sub lineage” of the Omicron variant known as BQ.1, which is currently the dominant variant in the UK. Experts don’t believe the Kraken variant is more dangerous than Omicron, but have warned it has a “growth advantage” which means it could spread more quickly.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said last month that the strain is the “most transmissible” yet and is thought to be capable of evading immunity built up from vaccines or past infection.

A technical briefing from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) states that XBB.1.5 currently “remains at very low prevalence in the UK, so estimates of growth are highly uncertain”, but it is predicted to become the UK’s next dominant strain unless further novel variants arise.

Kraken was first identified in the UK in December and grew rapidly to account for 11% of new infections on 21 January, according to Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK), and has been detected in at least 35 countries

Common symptoms of Covid have changed over the course of the pandemic as new variants have emerged and experts say a fever is no longer a major warning sign to look for. Instead, symptoms that are commonly associated with a cold are much more prevalent, with a sore throat, runny nose and sneezing now making up the top three.

As infections are starting to rise again, these are the top 10 symptoms affecting people right now, according to data from the ZOE Health Study. If you feel unwell, health experts advise taking a lateral flow test.

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