Covid cases lowest in over a year amid rise in new 'Kraken' variant

Covid cases have reached a new low following a challenging winter for the NHS.

Covid cases lowest in Scotland for over a year amid rise in new ‘Kraken’ variant iStock

Scotland’s covid cases are at the lowest the nation has seen in more than a year.

The country’s estimated virus cases currently stand at one in 70, according to figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Covid cases have reached the new low following a challenging winter in which NHS A&E departments recording some of the busiest periods on record.

However, Public Health Scotland does not currently publish data on different variants of the virus, including the new XBB.1.5 “Kraken” variant currently sweeping the US.

The NHS body said it was reviewing its practices and intended to share information on Kraken and other variants in due course.

The new variant, nicknamed “Kraken” by scientists, is a subvariant of BA.2 Omicron.

It has grabbed the attention of the World Health Organisation as a result of its transmission rate and because it contains more mutations to evade immunity than other variants seen so far.

The variant accounted for less than 10% of Covid cases in the US in December but this figure jumped 40% during the first week of January.

Symptoms of the new strain appear similar to earlier subvariants of Omicron including typical cold symptoms such as cough and congestion; shortness of breath and low oxygen levels.

The newer Omicron variants, CH.1.1 and XBB.1.5, are most likely to take over from BQ.1 as the next dominant variant in the UK, though neither have been classed as being “of concern”.

Across the UK, ONS figures reveal Covid figures to be at the lowest level since the start of autumn in 2022.

A total of 941,800 people in private households in the UK were likely to have had Covid-19 in the week ending January 24, down 15% from 1.1 million the previous week.

This is the lowest UK total since the week ending September 14 2022.

Michelle Bowen, ONS head of health surveillance, said that while infections across the UK nations showed “an overall decrease”, there are “differing trends when we look across age groups”.

She added: “In England we have seen increases in school age children and those aged 35-49 years in the latest week, with decreases only seen in over-50s.

“We will continue to monitor the data closely to see how the situation evolves in the coming weeks.”

The ONS infection survey is the most reliable measure of the prevalence of coronavirus and is based on a sample of swab tests from households across the country.

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