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Infections and hospitalisations in the UK are soaring. Action is needed to protect the vulnerable and the NHS

If Covid was now “no worse than a cold”, as some would have us believe, there would not be more than 10,000 people in hospital in the UK with the disease. Nor would there be 2 million people living with long Covid. Infection rates have surged, rising more than 30% in the week ending 24 June to 2.3 million people, thanks to the highly transmissible Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. The number of admissions to hospital with Covid has climbed steeply too.

Though vaccinations and immunity through previous infections may not prevent infection and transmission, they are still protecting most people from severe illness. Treatment has also improved. No one is suggesting that the high levels of sickness merit a return to lockdown, or anything approaching it. But other mitigation measures, at minimal social and economic cost, are both possible and demanded. The impact of such high levels of transmission on the clinically extremely vulnerable (especially the half a million people who are immunocompromised), the prevalence of long Covid and the impact on the National Health Service – already buckling under existing strains – all make action a matter of urgency.

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