A leading testing expert fears the UK is facing a Covid resurgence, as cases and hospital admissions soar. He says the Government must resume the antibody testing program it scrapped in March.
There’s mounting evidence that Covid-19 cases are on the rise. The latest Government data reveals a sharp 10.4% climb in cases towards the end of July, and Covid-related hospital cases have soared 16.5% in England.
Leading testing expert, Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), Clinical Lead at London Medical Laboratory, says: ‘It’s the news no one wanted to hear. The latest indicators point towards a resurgence in Covid, as antibody levels in the community start to fall. The Government’s latest figures show a surge in cases towards the end of last month in England, while the Zoe Health Study, which monitors cases across the UK, says estimated cases jumped from 606,629 on 4 July to 821,074 on 30 July.
‘The Government scrapped free testing in April last year and, consequently, its official figures show a mere 3.5% rise in testing in England last month. But that is a complete red herring. During the same period, London Medical Laboratory has seen a 30% rise in Covid PCR tests and an even higher jump in its 4-in-1 PCR test, which identifies whether people are suffering from Covid or one of three other viruses with similar symptoms: influenza A or B or RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). Similarly, “The Times” reports that the health retailer Boots reported a 33% rise in Covid test sales for the week ending 22 July.
‘Our chief concern is that the Government ditched its vital Covid antibody monitoring program in March. It gave invaluable data on how well antibody levels in the community were holding up. It’s likely to have been many months since most of us had a Covid top-up jab. As a result, even its final set of figures, for the week beginning 13 February, showed antibodies at the recommended 800 ng/ml level had already fallen to 66.6% among 25-34 year-olds and 66.8% among 35-49 year-olds. This could demonstrate a population-level vulnerability to any Covid-19 resurgence in the UK.
‘Most Brits are now less concerned about the impact of Covid, as the latest variants appear to present milder symptoms than earlier cases. However, we should not become too complacent; the impact of long Covid cannot be underestimated. Again, the Government axed its long-term monitoring in March but, at that point, an estimated 1.9 million Brits were suffering from long Covid, with 1.3 million people (69% of all sufferers) having symptoms for over a year.
‘Though they are no longer tracking the number of long Covid cases, or the duration of some symptoms, the Government has recently reported on the most common symptoms of long Covid. These are weakness or tiredness (60%), followed by shortness of breath (48%), muscle ache (42%), difficulty concentrating (37%) and joint pain (34%).
‘In our view, the UK should reintroduce antibody monitoring at the very least. This will give a clearer picture about the potential impact of any Covid resurgence on the community.
‘But is there also a need for more preventative measures? We all breathed an unmuffled sigh of relief when we were finally able to ditch our face masks. However, last month the “British Medical Journal” reported that a group of Scottish healthcare workers suffering from long Covid are demanding a reversal of the decision that ended the universal wearing of face masks in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. The Scottish Healthcare Workers Coalition described withdrawing mandatory masks as playing “Russian roulette” with people’s lives.
‘The best way to guard against catching Covid and developing long Covid symptoms is to keep fully vaccinated. If anyone is concerned about their current level of Covid antibodies, the new generation Covid antibody blood test available from London Medical Laboratory is highly accurate, quick and simple to carry out. This test can be taken at home through the post, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer it across London and nationwide in over 95 selected pharmacies and health stores.