A NEW Covid variant could be about to hit hospitals that are already filling up with flu, coughs and colds after the frosty spell.
Medics fear sickness is spreading fast with the busy Christmas season and ill-timed doctors’ strikes just around the corner.The NHS is already seeing winter bugs on the rise, with a potential Covid wave and doctors’ strikes looming[/caption]
A strain of coronavirus called JN.1 is being tracked by the UK Health Security Agency.
UKHSA scientist Dr Meaghan Kall said it appears to be one of the fastest spreading variants seen this year.
She said on X, formerly Twitter: “We will closely monitor JN.1
“It seems likely we must now add variant pressures to the forecast of a winter Covid-19 wave.”
The threat comes as the NHS is already seeing a surge in other winter bugs.
Saffron Cordery, chief of NHS Providers which represents hospital bosses, said: “Nasty bugs including norovirus, flu and RSV are piling the pressure on and this is likely to get worse in the festive season.”
Dr Tim Cooksley, of the Society of Acute Medicine, added: “Most hospitals are already experiencing chaotic and dangerous scenarios.”
The Countess of Chester Hospital in Cheshire has banned adult visiting because of a diarrhoea and vomiting bug ripping through its wards.
NHS figures show the number of people in hospital with flu has risen by half in a week to 234 people per day.
Cases of stomach bug norovirus and coughing virus RSV are also both increasing.
Hospitals are urging people to get vaccinated and to stay away from A&E unless they are in real danger.
Dom Hardy, chief operating officer at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, said: “We know up to half of patients attending our emergency department could instead consider using other NHS services such as NHS 111, an urgent care centre or self-care at home.”
Richard Jennings, a chief medical officer in South London, added: “You can support your local NHS by getting vaccinated against flu and Covid.”