Coronavirus restrictions are back across parts of the UK, as fears over the spread of the multi-mutating Covid Pirola strain grow.
The variant is fast becoming the dominant strain in the country, with positive cases doubling almost every few days in recent weeks. It has been confirmed that it has more than 30 different mutations, making it difficult for experts to analyse it properly – but it is worrying enough that the World Health Organization has placed it on its watch list. And as the country heads into autumn, it is thought that there will be a huge surge of cases from the BA.2.86 strain as was seen when the coronavirus pandemic was at its most dangerous in 2020 and 2021.
And after the UK's Health and Security Agency claimed that it has been spotted almost everywhere in the UK, parts of the country have reintroduced mask-wearing restrictions in certain settings. Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have become the first in the country to bring back restrictions largely gone from the entire UK for nearly two years.
READ MORE: UK hit by Covid 'Goldilocks effect' as Pirola strain rips through entire country
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Mask wearing has become mandatory for visitors and patients in all medical settings run by the trust, with everyone also asked to sanitise and socially distance. A spokesman for the trust said: "Along with our staff, visitors, outpatients and anyone accompanying them are asked to wear masks in all clinical areas and anywhere they will be in close contact with others for longer periods of time.
“Please ask a member of staff if you do not have a mask and they will provide you with one.”
All hospitals and community hubs run by the trust will be made required to follow the reintroduction. The five main hospitals run by the trust are Northern General Hospital, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Jessop Wing, Weston Park Cancer Centre and the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital.
Samples of mutated Pirola Covid strain stored in 'high containment facilities' around UK
Whether the measures, coupled with the vaccines available, will stop the spread is not yet known, and it comes just weeks after British immunologist and Professor in Biomedical Sciences and Public Engagement at the University of Manchester, Sheena Cruickshank warned that the UK's current strategy is not working.
She said: “The vaccine-only strategy that the UK is using for vulnerable populations is an insufficient approach. Even with boosters, not everyone will have as effective a response to the vaccine – for example if they are immunocompromised or on drugs that affect the function of their immune system.
“In reality, access in the UK is patchy, with a 'Goldilocks effect' whereby patients requesting them must be deemed ill enough to warrant the drug(s) yet not so ill the drugs would no longer be effective.”
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