• Thursday, June 20, 2024

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Covid rise sparks concern among British Asians

Covid will “continue to surprise us”, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Thomas Waite, has warned ahead of another tricky winter for the NHS

By: Amit Roy

WE SHOULD not forget that Covid took a terrible toll on the Asian community during the pandemic – and now, ominously, a new variant, BA.2.86, is making the rounds.

“Honestly, we don’t know too much about it,” said my local pharmacist.

Should masks again be mandatory on the London Underground and in crowded buses?

“May not be a bad idea,” he replied.

I became aware of Covid’s return during a group Teams call last week, when a woman apologised for being unwell.

“I have just had Covid – (there were) red lines (on the test kit),” she said.

Covid will “continue to surprise us”, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Thomas Waite, has warned ahead of another tricky winter for the NHS. The disease is less predictable than other winter illnesses, he added.

Trying to predict what will happen over the next few months is “crystal ball territory”.

“Flu worries me,” he commented. “Australia saw a large wave last year, and another early wave this year. I think it’s hard to say at this point exactly what Covid is going to do… but I don’t doubt that Covid, in particular, will continue to surprise us.”

He is encouraging those eligible for the free flu and/or Covid vaccine to get their jabs and protect their health. The NHS says people qualify for a vaccine if they are 65 or over; living in a care home; a health or social care worker; or someone with a long-term health condition, or live with a person who has one.

Last year, the flu vaccine stopped 25,000 people from being hospitalised. But scientists estimate that last winter in England, flu still caused more than 14,000 excess deaths and Covid caused more than 10,000.

Waite wants to see more vaccine uptake, particularly among children, pregnant women and those whose health conditions put them more at risk.

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, we did not know that British Asians were especially vulnerable because of underlying health conditions, such as diabetes. The vaccine was also not available.

We now know a great deal more, although tackling each new variant is like trying to hit a moving target.

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