The UK has experienced a recent surge in Covid cases, primarily attributed to the Pirola BA.2.86 strain, which is a variant of Omicron BA.2. It was first identified in Denmark in July this year and quickly became the dominant strain in the UK.

As of September 18, data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed 54 cases of the Pirola strain in the UK, with 48 cases in England and six in Scotland. No cases have been reported in Wales or Northern Ireland. In England, 10 of the cases required hospitalization, but no deaths have been recorded. Among the 48 cases in England, 30 were linked to a single outbreak in a Norfolk care home.

The latest government data reveals a rise in the number of people testing positive for Covid in England, with an increase of 1,472 cases in the week leading up to September 23, 2023. According to the UKHSA, hotspots for cases have been identified in the West Midlands, the North West, the North East, and certain areas of southern Scotland.

As of October 10, 2023, the new Covid variant has been detected in Northern Ireland, where the Public Health Agency (PHA) reported a small number of cases.

Common Covid symptoms, as listed by the NHS, include:

A high temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours

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A loss or change in the sense of taste or smell,

Shortness of breath,


Body aches,


Sore throat,

Blocked or runny nose,

Loss of appetite,

Diarrhea, and nausea or vomiting.

However, Dr. Helen Wall, a GP and NHS Greater Manchester’s clinical director of population health, has raised concerns about a rising number of patients experiencing severe headaches alongside other Covid symptoms

Written by Katrina Turrill, Health Editor, based in London, specializing in breaking news, common health conditions, real-life stories, diet, and exercise.

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