An Autumn Covid Wave Is Here. Do We Need To Panic About It?

As Covid cases soar across the UK, should we be taking action?
Will anything change this autumn as Covid cases soar?
Catherine McQueen via Getty Images
Will anything change this autumn as Covid cases soar?

The next wave of coronavirus has begun, according to a leading Covid expert.

Professor Tim Spector, co-founder of the Zoe Health Study app, who gave the warning, has urged people to remember that “Covid is not over.”

Many of us are failing to identify we have coronavirus in among soaring case numbers, due to “using government guidelines which are wrong,” the public health expert said.

Prof Spector told the Independent: “At the moment, Covid starts in two-thirds of people with a sore throat. Fever and loss of smell are really rare now – so many people may not think they’ve got Covid – they’d say it’s a cold and not be tested.”

New sub-variants of Omicron are becoming immune-evasive, Prof Spector told the newspaper, warning that this could cause problems this winter for the NHS which is “already on its knees.”

But what is the latest data looking like and should we be taking action?

What are the latest coronavirus figures?

According to the latest available UK Government data, between September 18 and 24, 40,650 people in England had a confirmed positive test result.

The figure shows an increase of 42.4% compared to the previous 7 days - so as we head into winter the numbers are rising considerably.

However, although cases are rising in England and Wales, the trend in Scotland and Northern Ireland is unclear, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

Despite Professor Spector’s stark warning, Sarah Crofts, ONS deputy director for the Covid-19 infection survey, has said that it is “too early to identify whether this is the start of a new wave.”

Should we still be testing for coronavirus?

Between September 21 and 27, 437,996 tests were carried out and registered in England, an increase of 12.1% compared to the seven days previous to that - so people are certainly still testing for the virus.

However, the UK government is no longer providing free Covid tests to the general population and all restrictions – including self-isolation rules have also been dropped.

UK government guidance states: “If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as Covid-19, and you have a high temperature or do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out normal activities, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people, until you no longer have a high temperature (if you had one) or until you no longer feel unwell.”

How do I get an autumn booster?

In England, anyone over the age of 65, health and care workers, carers, those with weakened immune systems and people who are pregnant are now eligible to book a vaccine through the National Booking Service.

Scotland’s autumn booster rollout is also in full swing, targeting care home residents and frontline health and social care workers, while Wales is also already offering boosters to care home residents and staff.

Should we still be wearing face masks?

Across the UK, wearing a face mask is no longer required by law.

However, in some parts of the UK, it’s still recommended that you wear one in healthcare settings, including some pharmacies, hospital and GP settings.

Asthma UK strongly encourage everyone who can to follow government advice by wearing a face covering:

  • when you come into contact with someone at higher risk from coronavirus
  • when Covid-19 rates are high and you’re in crowded, indoor situations
  • when there are lots of respiratory viruses going round, for example during winter months, and you’re in close contact with others
  • if you have symptoms, or have had a positive test, and need to leave home for any reason.

In September, Scotland dropped the requirement for face masks in care home settings, but some UK hospitals have now reinstated mask mandates due to the current surge in Covid infections.