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Health Experts Caution of Large Fan Gathering Amidst Rapid Spread of FliRT Variant

FliRT Variant

Football fans gathering to watch Euro 2024 could be driving the ‘building’ summer Covid wave as the new FLiRT variant spreads amid a faltering vaccine drive. An infectious disease expert and former government adviser on Covid-19 has suggested that the high number of cases is coinciding with the football championship, similar to the situation in 2021.

Professor Mark Woolhouse commented, “There is a widespread impression of a growing 2024 summer wave, much as we saw in 2021 when there was also a Euros football tournament, and evidence that this contributed significantly to the spread of infection.”

Hospitals have seen a 25% rise in Covid cases in a week, attributed to the more aggressive FLiRT variant strains KP.2 and KP.3, which have already caused a significant spike in the US. This surge comes as only 4.1 million of the 7 million vulnerable people eligible for a spring booster jab have taken it, leaving 40% without extra protection.

Experts are also concerned that current vaccines are less effective against the FLiRT variants, which have evolved to be more contagious and better at evading antibodies. Dr. Matthew Binnicker, from the Clinical Virology Laboratory at Mayo Clinic in the US, explained that this is due to significant changes in the spike protein, which the vaccines target.

“This variant can evade the immune response more effectively than prior versions of the virus,” Dr. Binnicker said. “If you’ve been infected or vaccinated and have antibodies in your system, those antibodies may not recognize the protein on the virus’s surface as well.”

Those who received their last vaccination more than six months ago, according to Dr. Binnicker, will have waning protection and will be more susceptible to symptoms should they catch Covid.

NHS statistics show the number of people hospitalized with Covid rose to 3.31 per 100,000 in the week to June 16, compared with 2.67 per 100,000 the previous week.

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