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Covid-19 Australia: Kerry Chant warns of new coronavirus wave with new Omicron variant XBB

Kerry Chant warns Australia is on the verge of a new wave of Covid as the XBB variant spreads quickly and researcher warns virus is inflaming brains

  • Arrival of new Covid strains BQ. 1 and XBB will result in renewed surges of cases
  • Health bosses have warned Australia is on cusp of a horror new wave of virus
  • Researchers discovered a previously unknown Covid side effect on the brain

One of Australia’s top health bosses has warned the country faces being swamped by a new wave of Covid-19 cases due to the arrival of two new Omicron variants. 

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant has echoed concerns from interstate counterparts that sub-variants BQ. 1 and XBB will run rampant and soon overtake BA. 5 as the dominant strains in Australia.

The XBB strain, which recently emerged in Singapore, has been ripped through the country with cases rising tenfold in a matter of weeks.

The variant has been dubbed by some international experts as the ‘nightmare variant’ and the ‘most vaccine-resistant yet’

The news comes after University of Queensland’s School of Biomedical Science researchers recently discovered a previously unknown Covid side effect on the brain, which experts describe as a ‘silent killer’.

Covid cases are expected to spike again in the coming weeks with the arrival of two new variants. Pictured are crowds at Randwick racecourse in Sydney last month

In a video message Dr Chant warned: ‘We’re starting to see an increase in Covid-19 cases and changes in the variants circulating in NSW, which tells us that we’re entering the next Covid wave.’ 

‘By looking at all the local information we have, and what’s happening overseas, we believe Covid cases will rise in the coming weeks.’

Dr Chant reiterated the importance of vaccinations to reduce the risk of severe illness and urged sick people to stay home.  

University of Queensland’s School of Biomedical Science researchers found on Thursday that Covid-19 activates the same inflammatory response in the brain as Parkinson’s disease.

Their findings have been published in scientific journal Molecular Psychiatry.

‘We studied the effect of the virus on the brain’s immune cells, ‘microglia’, which are the key cells involved in the progression of brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,’ Prof Trent Woodruff said.

Covid-19 Australia: Kerry Chant warns of new coronavirus wave with new Omicron variant XBB

‘Our team grew human microglia in the laboratory and infected the cells with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. We found the cells effectively became ‘angry’, activating the same pathway that Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s proteins can activate.’

It creates a ‘fire’ in the brain, which leads to a ‘chronic and sustained’ process of killing off neurons.

‘It’s kind of a silent killer, because you don’t see any outward symptoms for many years,’ Dr Albornoz Balmaceda added.

‘It may explain why some people who’ve had Covid-19 are more vulnerable to developing neurological symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease.’

NSW recorded 9707 cases in the week ending October 28, an increase of 11.4 per cent from the previous week.

‘The protection the NSW community has from vaccination and previous infection continues to reduce the risk of severe illness,’ Dr Chant said.

‘However the elderly and those with underlying health conditions continue to be at risk.

Covid-19 Australia: Kerry Chant warns of new coronavirus wave with new Omicron variant XBB

In Victoria, Covid cases rose by nearly a quarter within a week while hospitalisations rose by 20 per cent, sparking concerns from health officials about ‘the start of another COVID-19 wave’.

‘Surveillance shows the presence of multiple Omicron subvariants in Victoria including rapid growth of (the Omicron subvariant) BQ. 1 and XBB in the past month, with a combined prevalence of approximately 10 per cent in wastewater and clinical sample,’ Victoria’s chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton said.

‘With case numbers on the rise locally and internationally, particularly in Europe and in South-East Asia, Victorians are reminded that vaccination, masks, ventilation, testing, staying home when sick and COVID-19 treatments are highly effective at reducing transmission, illness and deaths and also protect the health system.’

Leading infectious disease experts estimate around 80 per cent of Australians have had Covid in the three years since the pandemic hit our shores in January 2020.