Well, the good news for the NHS in crisis is that flu and COVID cases appear to have stopped increasing.
But for those returning to work and school this week, the respite may be short-lived, officials said.
Furthermore, we have just seen the UK’s first data on a COVID variant – CH.1.1, currently the fastest growing COVID strain in the UK.
The UK Health Security Agency released its first data on flu and COVID cases from a week before Christmas.
It shows flu hospitalizations peaked at “very high” during the Christmas period.
But by January 1, the number of flu cases had rapidly dropped to “average”. Admissions COVID also declined.
The sharp drop in flu could be due to a variety of data happening over the holiday season, but according to UKHSA, the drop could suggest that the very rapid rise in both viruses may have leveled off – at least. especially so far.
While people see their families over Christmas, it is normal for the mix of work and school to increase from now on and potentially cause a resurgence of infections. So, today’s snapshot of data is no guarantee that the extra pressure the respiratory virus has put on the NHS will be eased.
And then there are the new variants of COVID.
There is concern that the XBB variant of Omicron is growing very rapidly in the northeastern United States and other parts of Europe. But so far, it doesn’t seem to be growing fast in the UK.
XBB accounted for 5% of cases on Dec. 20, 7% of cases last week. However, because the normal testing process has ended, it is difficult for officials to estimate the actual growth rate of the variant, with only a few hundred samples being collected per week so far.
But XBB is now joined by CH.1.1, which first appeared in the data above (in green). It first appeared last spring and is believed to have originated in the UK from an earlier Omicron variant called BA.2.75.
CH.1.1 is at such a low level that it is of little concern. But in recent weeks it started to rise sharply and now accounts for 18% of UK cases.
As with all previous Omicron clades, there is no evidence that XBB and CH.1.1 viruses cause more severe disease.
However, their growth advantage means they can still pose a threat to the failing health service. Most cases of COVID spike are associated with the emergence of a new variant as it evolves to replace the existing dominant strain.
If that happens this winter, it could put a lot of unwanted pressure on hospitals and nursing homes.