Amid a significant rise in Covid cases, the UK health agency has asked people in the country to brace for another bout of infections due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus this winter.
The fresh cases are reportedly due to the new variant nicknamed BA.2.86, dubbed as Pirola.
The variant has led to a five-month high spike in hospitalisations (3,366 patients) in England in the week ending October 6 -- the highest figure since mid-April.
According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the cases will "further increase" as the season progresses, along with other "winter respiratory viruses like flu".
"This week's surveillance indicates a slight increase in Covid infection rates. As we enter the colder months and people begin to mix more indoors, we expect to see further increases in Covid," said Mary Ramsay, UKHSA's director of public health programmes, in a statement.
"We are monitoring rates closely and reminding people that when you have respiratory symptoms you should avoid mixing with others, especially those more vulnerable," Ramsay said.
While current hospitalisation due to Covid has increased, they are still far below levels seen during the pandemic.
The latest report by UKHSA showed that an average of 2,257 Covid cases are being recorded each day in England.
Meanwhile, the country has also rolled out vaccine boosters, for the elderly and vulnerable.
The UKHSA said 3.9 million over-65s in England (35.3 per cent) have been jabbed so far. The jab is being offered with the seasonal flu vaccine to maximise vulnerable people protection from both pathogens during the winter season.
Ramsay urged those eligible to take up the jabs.
"We strongly urge parents and all those eligible, for either or both Covid and flu vaccines, to book today with the NHS or via their GP surgery as soon as possible," she said.