New Covid variant 'bound to pop up', says Leicestershire health chief

Credit: PA

Leicestershire's health chief has said a new Covid-19 variant is 'bound to crop' up - but we might not be able to react immediately to it when it does.

Mike Sandys, director of public health at Leicestershire County Council, warned that, while the threat of new variants is nothing new, recent changes put in place by the Government will make them harder to spot.

The Government ended free testing in England at the start of the month, including PCR tests for people with symptoms. But Mr Sandys says this free testing should have stayed in place.

"The thing that worries me is that we're not going to know [if there's a new variant]. If there's one thing worse than knowing what's going on, it's not knowing what's going on," he said.

Free Covid tests became a thing of the past at the beginning of the month Credit: PA

What is the Covid situation in the Midlands?

65,745 positive cases were reported in the Midlands in the seven days leading up to Tuesday.

But with the end of free testing the number of people who are positive could be far higher - a trend that may continue over the coming months as the numbers of people testing falls.

On Sunday, it was reported that 2,800 people were in hospital with the virus in the region. As per Tuesday, 182 people had died over the previous week within 28 days of a positive result.

The health chief also warned that there was no guarantee that each variant will be less severe than the one before it, as Omicron has been compared to Delta. He echoed assessments that this will depend on the 'family tree' of the new variant.

"You can't necessarily say that Alpha begot Beta, which begot Delta, which begot Omicron," he said. "The next one could be a son of Delta and could be stronger than Omicron.

The Government's Living with Covid plan was announced in February. As well as ending free testing, it also removed the legal requirement to isolate if you have symptoms or test positive and venues like theatres no longer need to check the Covid statuses of attendees.

Some at-risk groups and NHS and social care staff still have access to free tests.