Covid warning: EU issues Kraken variant alert - 'It's coming to Britain'

Covid: A warning has been issued by the EU that the Kraken variant could drive Covid infections
Covid: A warning has been issued by the EU that the Kraken variant could drive Covid infections
Danny Lawson
Georgina Cutler

By Georgina Cutler

Published: 07/01/2023

- 15:01

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 10:23

The EU is warning that the Kraken variant could drive Covid numbers within weeks

The EU’s disease control agency say the XBB.1.5 Kraken variant is set to drive higher Covid infections across Europe – but not until next month.

The coronavirus sub-variant, which is ripping through America, is spreading quickly as experts fear the strain is the most transmissible yet.

But health chiefs say Europe has “some time” to prepare for cases going vertical.

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL File photo dated 08/01/22 of a person simulating taking a Covid 19 lateral flow test. There are no plans to introduce mandatory Covid tests for visitors from China, a UK Government spokesperson has said, after the US became the latest country to impose restrictions. The US joined Italy, India, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia and Japan in announcing new measures after the abrupt end of Beijing's zero-Covid policy sparked a surge in cases. Issue date: Wednesday December 28, 2022.
The XBB.1.5 Kraken variant is ripping through America
Danny Lawson

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said: "There is a possibility that this variant could have an increasing effect on the number of COVID-19 cases in the EU/EEA, but not within the coming month as the variant is currently only present in the EU/EEA at very low levels.”

On Wednesday, the WHO’s Covid technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said that the health agency was concerned with how quickly the sub-variant was replacing other variants in circulation.

According to the White House's COVID-19 Response Coordinator, in the US the variant went from four per cent of cases to 40 percent in a few weeks.

In the UK, experts believe that one in 20 people were infected with Covid over the Christmas break.

Analysts at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) say almost three million people had the virus throughout the festive week – figures last seen during the summer when health chiefs called for the return of pandemic-era restrictions such as masks.

Fears have also been raised about the new strain putting more pressure on the ailing NHS in the week ahead.

The health service has already been battered by its worst influenza outbreak in the last 10 years which has triggered calls for measures to return to protect the NHS.

A Covid-19 rapid antigen test (lateral flow self test) showing a positive result. Picture date: Tuesday January 18, 2022.
Health chiefs say Europe has “some time” to prepare for surging cases
Jane Barlow

NHS statistics showed Covid pressures were highest in mid-December when XBB-1.5 first started to be detected across Britain but have been falling since.

For now, the sub-variant is just “a blip on the radar in Europe” in terms of case numbers, according to the ECDC.

In its recent assessment of Kraken, the ECDC added: “Just because the sub-variant is exploding in the U.S. doesn't necessarily mean that Europe will soon be in the eye of the storm.

"[M]ajor differences in variant circulation have been observed between North America and Europe several times during the pandemic.”

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