We suspected it was already here, but now we know. The latest variant of Covid-19 under the spotlight, called XE, was found here and is likely to be circulating, albeit at a low level at the moment.
It comes as we come out of the last wave with a drop in infections and patients in intensive care, which bodes well for the coming months.
So will this be a big setback and what do we know about this variant so far?
XE is a hybrid of two Omicron strains that have made their mark here. They are BA.1, which arrived at the end of last year, and BA.2, which has displaced it in recent months.
Both spread very easily and the hybrid version can be around 10% more transmissible than BA.2. Scientists say that XE is known as a recombinant variant that forms when one strain takes genetic material from another. These recombinants have happened before.
spread so far
One case has been sequenced in Ireland and is travel related. Sequencing is an in-depth analysis of the virus that indicates that it is here and can indicate how strong it is present. It is expected to be circulating here at low levels with the BA.2 strain still dominant.
There have been around 2,000 cases in the UK, but it was first found there in mid-January. So your journey has been slow enough. It has also been found in other European countries and in India.
devil you know
Although there is still much to learn about this variant, there is some consolation in that it comes from the Omicron family. We already know that Omicron is less serious.
Vaccines taper off over time to protect people from getting the virus they target. But people who are vaccinated and boosted will have good protection against serious illness if they do get it.
XE will continue to pose a risk to people who are not vaccinated. The arrival of another variant emphasizes the need for updated vaccines that can offer broader protection. These are expected in the summer and fall.
Current vaccines are still based on the original Wuhan strain from 2020. Hundreds of thousands of people in this country who are eligible for
a booster shot has not yet availed one.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is closely monitoring the XE.
It has not declared variant of concern. Early estimates based on preliminary data indicate it has a growth rate advantage of about 10 percent, compared to BA.2, he said.
If this growth rate is confirmed, the new variant would be 1.1 times more transmissible. Professor Luke O’Neill, from Trinity College Dublin, said he believes antiviral drugs that can be given to vulnerable people early on who catch the virus will respond well.
However, he said more needs to be known about the variant, noting that it has three additional mutations that need to be watched closely. It remains to be seen how the mutations might impact vaccines.
The good news is that signs continue to show that this wave is receding for now.
The figures show that the positivity rate among people who underwent an HSE PCR test fell to less than 19% with a seven-day positivity rate of 22.7%, in contrast to a positivity rate of nearly 50%. % at the end of March.
It does not take into account positive home antigen tests and there is still a significant amount of Covid-19 circulating.
Almost 15,000 new cases of the virus were reported during the Easter holidays.
The number of Covid patients in intensive care fell to 44 yesterday, down from 57 last Thursday and the lowest level since St. Patrick’s Day. However, there was a slight increase in the number of hospitalized patients overall, reaching 750, up from 742 on Sunday.
The worst-case scenario would be for the XE variant to cause more infections, forcing hospitals to ramp up infection control measures again for patients who are directly sick with the virus and those treated for another illness but testing positive.