PARENTS have been warned they are at higher risk of catching Covid in the next few weeks, and to think about elderly relatives.
It comes amid what appears to be the start of the fourth wave, with cases creeping up following the reopening of schools.
The pattern reflects what happened at the start of the second wave, in September 2020.
But this time, vaccines are preventing a huge number of deaths and hospitalisations – although experts say they are still “too high”.
Professor Tim Spector, who heads one of the leading UK Covid studies, said cases are “no longer dropping”.
He said: “We’re seeing around 58,000 cases per day now, 14,300 of those have been fully vaccinated.
“The original peaks we had earlier in the summer were coming from young people in their 20s which has come down now.
“The last three weeks we've really been seeing this increase in the kids, in 0-18 year-olds.”
Prof Spector, speaking on YouTube, used a graph to show that cases had gone up “quite sharply”, while cases in 30 to 50 year-olds “are starting to pick up as well”.
Data from the ZOE Covid Symptom Study app shows around 2,000 in every 100,000 people aged between 0 and 19 have Covid now – up from 1,500 around three weeks ago.
Around 1,300 in every 100,000 adults aged between 30 and 49 are currently infected.
Stats show one in 79 children aged between 0 and nine years old have Covid, going up to one in 36 for those aged between 10 and 19 years old.
The figure is around one in 75 for those in their 30s and 40s.
Prof Spector continued: “Many of them may well be the parents who are mixing with these infected kids. I think this is likely to be a driving infection source for the next few weeks.
“We have seen this before – if you remember last September when schools went back we saw a big surge in colds and Covid in kids, and that did translate to increases in parents.
“The only good news here is we are not seeing changes so far in elderly. The over 50-year-olds haven't really moved at all and they’d be the main source of hospitalisations.
“But I think everyone is expecting the effect of Freshers week, with universities going back, and kids of the 18-21 group fuelling some more infections."
Prof Spector urged for caution when seeing vulnerable or elderly people, whose vaccine protection may have waned.
He said: “The lesson here is, this is where we will be seeing the problem for the next few weeks – in the 30 to 50 year-old age groups.
“So if you've got kids at school, do be a bit careful about mixing, particularly with vulnerable or elderly relatives for the next couple of weeks.
“As the winter approaches, it’s important parents of school-aged children and students don’t pass the virus on to more vulnerable grandparents by not recognising simple cold-like symptoms as a possible Covid infection.
“This is a critical time and a little caution could make all the difference in avoiding a winter crisis for hospitals.”
He warned that people should be wary that their cold symptoms might be Covid, and to do a lateral flow test at home.
Supporting data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Department of Health signal a fourth wave is gaining momentum.
Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at Reading University, said ministers can't be complacent about the rise in infections in school age kids.
"It is likely they [Covid cases] have gone from children. Parents have protection from the vaccine, but we know the protection is not complete,” he told MailOnline.
Millions of vaccine doses have been given out across the UK, and 82.5 per cent of adults are double jabbed.
But there is now firm evidence that immunity wanes from around the six month mark, meaning it will decline gradually through the age groups.
Ministers have ramped up a booster vaccine campaign to reach the elderly and vulnerable before the winter – when viruses circulate more widely – comes.
But a Plan B, of re-introducing mandatory face masks, working from home and vaccine passports, is in reserve if hospitalisations get too high.
The UK has some of the highest hospital admission rates in Europe, despite its vaccine success.
Prof Spector suggested this was because the UK has relatively very few control measures in place anymore, relying solely on vaccines to limit spread of the virus.
He said: “Hospitalisations are around 5,200 new people going into hospital last week, which is down slightly.
“But remember we've still got about 800 people on mechanical ventilators in ICU – many of those won’t make it.
“Currently the cases are pretty mild, we are seeing a drop in the numbers of people going to hospital, which is good news.
“It does need a careful eye on it as it spreads from one generation to another.”
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