The emergence of Omicron XE is testament to the notion that Covid-19 will continue to adapt, and that members of the public and health authorities need to remain vigilant as the virus evolves, immunologist Denis Kinane said
A new Covid variant which appears to result in people testing positive for longer has prompted a warning from an expert.
The emergence of the Omicron XE variant is testament to the notion that Covid-19 will continue to adapt, and that members of the public and health authorities need to remain vigilant as the virus evolves, immunologist Denis Kinane said.
Professor Kinane, Leading Immunologist and Founding Scientist of Cignpost Diagnostics, told The Mirror that data is showing people testing positive for 10 or more days with this variant.
He warned this means the virus has the ability to spread more widely – and said this coupled with the scrapping of free testing could leave vulnerable groups even more vulnerable.
He told The Mirror: “One of the key differences with our current variants is that in some individuals they continue to be PCR positive at high levels, previously associated with being infectious, for much longer.
“Our current data is showing that many people are testing positive for 10 days or more rather than the 6 or 7 days we saw by frequent testing at the beginning of the Omicron wave, which means the virus has more opportunity to spread more widely and this may be BA-2 and XE’s transmissibility advantage.
“Since testing levels have decreased due to the Government’s lifting of regulations for travel etc. we are testing much less now and not sequencing the virus to any great extent. Thus we cannot be definitive on which variants are the ones that seem to be persisting.
“This is naturally leading us to question whether current regulations are able to combat the spread of a variant which appears to be transmissible for longer periods of time, namely the scrapping of self-isolation rules and the recent ending of free testing in England.”
He continued: “I completely understand the Government’s desire to return to normal as soon as possible.
“However, the decision to end free tests will leave many vulnerable groups extremely vulnerable to Covid-19 including the immunocompromised, as people in their social circle will not be tested and may be asymptomatic carriers.”
Prof Kinane spoke on how testing formed a vital part of the public health response to coronavirus and was crucial in preventing transmission.
“In the context of Omicron XE and with higher case numbers, many people and sectors will be wondering if this will prevent people from safely returning to their place of work as we begin to live with the virus,” he said.
“The increased transmissibility of the XE variant should be met with caution and I would suggest that the public continue to take sensible precautions to limit person to person transmission of Covid-19.”