Virus-tracking researchers detected the Omicron spin-off – given the placeholder name BA.X or BA.2.86 – in a patient hospitalised in London. UKHSA bosses did not reveal exactly how many cases have been spotted so far.Only six cases of the strain – first spotted last month – have been detected so far worldwide, in the US, Denmark and Israel

A heavily-mutated Covid variant dubbed the ‘real deal’ is already in the UK, health officials confirmed today amid fears it could trigger a fresh wave.

Virus-tracking researchers detected the  spin-off – nicknamed Pirola but also known scientifically as BA.X/BA.2.86 – in a patient hospitalised in London.

Alarm bells were raised because the unidentified patient is thought to have caught the strain within the UK. 

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) bosses did not reveal exactly how many cases have been spotted so far. 

But top scientists claim the discovery means ‘we can be pretty sure it’s circulating more widely’.

Pirola’s official arrival comes as Covid cases take off once again, sparking concerns that the UK is on the brink of another wave just as the country heads into the winter when the NHS is busiest. 

Only six cases of the strain – first spotted last month – have been detected so far worldwide, in the US, Denmark and Israel.

But virologists are unsettled because of the catalogue of mutations it carries on its spike protein, the piece of the virus vaccines were designed to target. 

Others, however, have warned it’s far too early to panic.No evidence shows Pirola is any more of a threat than the dozens of strains that have come before it.

Immunity levels built-up through vaccine roll-outs and previous waves are high and over time the virus has evolved to become less deadly, allowing society to treat it in the same way as the flu without pandemic-era restrictions. 

BA.X’s official arrival comes as Covid cases take off once again, sparking concerns that the UK is on the brink of another wave just as the country heads into the winter when the NHS is busiest. NHS hospital data shows daily Covid admissions in England ⭐⭐⭐All-in-one web analytics⭐⭐⭐ have increased on average by almost a fifth in week, rising from a 7-day rolling average of 258 on August 4, to 308 on August 11, according to the latest figures available

Other variants flagged as troublesome have just fizzled out naturally.

Ministers have vowed they will never deploy curbs wielded during the darkest days of the crisis in 2020 and 2021 unless a doomsday variant emerges which sends the world back to square one. 

Alarm bells over Pirola were first rung earlier this week after a prominent online virus-tracker spotted cases initially crop up in Denmark. 

The discovery came just a day after the same lineage was detected in Israel.

Yesterday the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also confirmed a case in Michigan, meaning the strain has now been detected in three continents. 

Denmark also logged another case today, its public health institute, the Statens Serum Institut, revealed this afternoon.

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