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TWO strains of Omicron that originated in South Africa have been labelled Covid "variants of concern", health officials have revealed.

Variants BA4 and BA5 may be able to evade vaccines and are likely to dominate Europe's Covid cases, The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned in a report.

2Concerns are now rocketing that the new variants will lead to a massive uptick in casesCredit: AP

Concerns are now rocketing that the new variants will lead to a massive uptick in cases across the continent this summer.

The ECDC said: "The presence of these variants could cause a significant overall increase in Covid-19 cases in the EU/EEA in the coming weeks and months. 

"The overall proportion of BA.4 and BA.5 in the EU/EEA is currently low but the high growth advantages reported suggest that these variants will become dominant in the EU/EEA in the coming months." 

Experts at the Centre predict "increased hospital and ICU admissions is likely to follow" if infections rise as they made their grim forecast.

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As a result, the EU body is now urging all countries to "remain vigilant" for signs that the strains are emerging.

And they are pleading with over 80s to get a second booster jab to protect themselves.

Over 60s and other vulnerable groups should also be in the firing line for a second booster, the ECDC added.

Concerningly, two cases of the new variants were detected in the UK this week.

The BA4 and BA5 strains were first detected in South Africa in January and February of this year respectively.

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They have since become the dominant strain in that country.

Cases began to rise following the emergence of the strain in the country.

It has sparked concern a fifth Covid wave could begin in the country as early as next month, as the country heads into winter.

While BA5 is expected to be the most common variant in Portugal by May 22, health officials fear. 

Both new variants of concern can evade immunity given by both a previous Covid infection and a vaccine.

The ECDC added this is likely "particularly if this [immunity] is waned over time".

Despite the warnings the report said there was currently "no indication of any change in severity for BA4/BA5 compared to previous Omicron lineages". 


Another Covid variant, named XE, is also under close watch by UK Health Security Agency.

It may spread 10 per cent faster than the current strain but scientists said they are still studying it.

XE combines the two Omicron strains BA.1 and BA.2, making it a so-called recombinant variant.

There are around 1,200 cases of XE in the UK, mostly in England.

It comes as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates 1.2million, or one in 45 people, were carrying the virus on any given day in the week to May 7.

This was down a quarter on the previous week.

The same estimates reckoned one in 35 people were carrying Covid in Wales and Scotland last week and one in 55 in Northern Ireland.

177,000 Brits have died from Coronavirus since the outbreak of the pandemic.

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As of Friday May 13, a further 6,506 positive coronavirus cases were recorded, according to Government Figures.

There were 151 deaths recorded within 28-days of a positive test.

2Experts fear soaring hospital admissions as Covid cases riseCredit: EPA

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Tags: coronavirus coronavirus vaccine health variants of concern strains of omicron a second booster health officials in south africa in the country these variants were carrying evade vaccine covid cases detected

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Climate change doubled chance of South African floods that killed 435 people, analysis shows

(CNN)Human-induced climate change made the extreme rainfall that triggered deadly floods in South Africa in April heavier and twice as likely to happen, a rapid analysis published Friday by the World Weather Attribution project shows.

Parts of South Africa experienced more than 350mm of rainfall in two days, causing destructive floods in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces, killing at least 435 people and damage to property worth around $1.57 billion. The Port of Durban, Africa's largest port, was forced to halt operations due to the floods, causing disruptions in supply chains.
    "Most people who died in the floods lived in informal settlements, so again we are seeing how climate change disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable people," said Friederike Otto from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, who leads the World Weather Attribution (WWA) project.
      "However, the flooding of the Port of Durban, where African minerals and crops are shipped worldwide, is also a reminder that there are no borders for climate impacts," she said. "What happens in one place can have substantial consequences elsewhere."Read MoreA general view of containers that fell over at a container storage facility following heavy rains, winds and floods in Durban on April 12, 2022. The scientists analyzed weather data and computer simulations to compare today's climate, which is around 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than temperatures before industrialization, with the climate of the past.They also concluded that an extreme rainfall episode such as the one in April could now be expected to happen about once in every 20 years.
        "Without human-caused global warming, such an event would only happen once every 40 years, so it has become about twice as common as a result of greenhouse gas emissions," the group said in a statement. It added that these extreme rainfall events are expected to be 4-8% heavier than in the past. "If we do not reduce emissions and keep global temperatures below 1.5º C, many extreme weather events will become increasingly destructive," said the WWA's Izidine Pinto, from the Climate System Analysis Group at the University of Cape Town. "We need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a new reality where floods and heatwaves are more intense and damaging."
          Scientists have warned that the world must try to cap global warming to 1.5C to stave off some irreversible impacts of climate change.In southeastern Africa, warming of 2C is projected to bring an increase in the frequency and intensity of heavy rain and flooding, and an increase in the intensity of strong tropical cyclones, which are associated with heavier rainfall.

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