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New ‘Pi’ variant of Covid could already be in UK as scientists call for masks to return | UK | News UK News

A new ‘Pi’ variant of Covid-19 could already be in the UK after scientists spotted it in Denmark and Israel.

Scientists have claimed the new variant has been dubbed the real deal, sparking speculation about whether masks and other Covid restrictions could return.

Some scientists have already begun saying the public need to start wearing masks again as new variants arise and autumn appears on the horizon.

Experts have said that if the variant, provisionally known as BA.6, is already in the UK, it could spread very quickly in the near future.

After a quiet period for the virus, the development of new strains has triggered fears about what could happen as the weather turns colder.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Professor Paul Hunter said the new variant was “probably” in the UK and USA.

He said: “If it isn’t now, then it probably very soon will be.”

One epidemiologist at the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said, the variant could be named “Pi”, the letter after Omicron in the Greek alphabet, but this has yet to be confirmed.

Fears about the new variant were first raised earlier this week when both Israel and Denmark spotted a handful of cases.

Early tests show BA.6 carries more than 30 mutations in its spike protein compared to previous vairants, but it is not known what impact these changes will have on mutation.

Professor Lawrence Young told the Mail: “Past experience indicates if a new variant is identified that has the ability to compete with other variants and spread more effectively, it inevitably appears in the UK. 

“International travel and mixing in airports and on holiday makes it difficult to prevent the introduction of new variants”

Professor Young added it was impossible to know whether this new variant would become more dominant than the ruling XBB form of Covid.

Despite the reassurances by experts, others are calling for the return of facemasks to public life.

Oxford University’s Dr Trisha Greenhalgh tweeted: “It looks like it’s once again time to MASK UP.”

Canadian Biologist T. Ryan Gregory added: “Bear in mind, there are only a few sequences of it so far and it may not be able to compete with currently dominant variants and may not take off. But it’s interesting and potentially concerning.”

Mr Gregory’s comments have been echoed by other scientists who are concerned by the new variant.

Professor Stephen Griffin told the Mail: “It is too early to tell whether this ‘jump’ in evolution will lead to a virus ‘fit’ enough to dominate in the same way as BA.1 and BA.2 and other variants of concern once did, but there are a number of mutations that may cause concern if it does start to spread.”

Professor Griffin added that the best way for the UK to get ready for the new variant was a combination of vaccines and a “mitigation-based approach”.

Professor Griffin expressed concern that the UK was “currently winding both of these aspects down”.

As the UK enjoys a return to warmer weather in August, there are many worried about what will happen when the mercury once again begins to fall.

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This notice was published: 2023-08-16 19:23:00

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