New coronavirus subvariant on the rise, RIVM says increase in infections not alarming

After a quiet summer, the number of coronavirus infections seems to be slowly increasing again. The highest number of virus particles has been found in wastewater since mid-May. Also, slightly more people are being hospitalized for coronavirus symptoms. A new sub-variant of the virus is on the rise.

The numbers are still small, stresses the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). “What we are seeing in the last month is an increase, but the level is still very low. It is now increasing from very low to a little less very low,” says Susan van den Hof, director of RIVM’s Center for Epidemiology and Surveillance of Infectious Diseases. The reasons for the slight increase are unclear, but summer vacations may play a role. “Holidays always favor the spread of viruses,” Van den Hof says.

The number of virus particles in the sewage system is increasing faster than the number of hospitalizations. This indicates that most people can recover at home, causing little or no symptoms from the coronavirus. Van den Hof explained “We expect the virus to continue to spread through the fall. We will also see an increase in the number of people who are seriously ill, but not as high as in the pandemic years.” That’s because almost everyone has had Covid-19, has been vaccinated against the virus, or both. People are well protected. Van den Hof therefore believes that coronavirus measures are unnecessary and that the healthcare system will not be overloaded.

The new variant that is now circulating is called EG.5, which is a modified version of XBB that has recently become popular. The change means that EG.5 is probably just a little better at evading people’s defenses, and therefore can spread faster and more easily. There is no evidence that EG.5 makes people sicker than other virus variants. The Covid-19 vaccine, which will be used for booster shots next fall, was developed specifically for the XBB variants. This includes EG.5.

The RIVM stated that the coronavirus infections are increasing fastest among young people. “That may have to do with holidays, but we don’t know for sure,” Van den Hof explained. According to the institute’s director, this circumstance makes sense as young people have more contacts than older people, RTL Nieuws reported.

According to the National Coordinating Center for Patient Spread (LCPS), about 75 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19. This is the highest number since early June. Almost all patients are being treated in a regular care unit.

However, the RIVM emphasizes that the increase is not alarming. Nevertheless, as a precaution, the institute wants to make it clear that the number of infections will increase in the fall and winter. Therefore, especially people who belong to the risk group should get vaccinated against the coronavirus. In October, people with a medical history can receive a repeat vaccination.

Reporting by ANP and NL Times

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