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‘More contagious but less severe’ Covid-19 variant 'Kraken' detected locally

A new variant of Covid-19 called 'Kraken' has been detected in Gibraltar, but the Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter, said this strain, despite being more contagious, is less severe.

Dr Carter said the Kraken virus, first found in the US and named after a mythological sea monster, will likely see cases surge locally and result in milder illness.

The Kraken is a mutation of two variants of the Omicron virus, and Dr Carter explained that as the Covid-19 virus continues to mutate, symptoms are becoming more mild.

In Gibraltar the cases found by Public Health have come from visitors from the UK, and the virus has also been found in Spain.

Dr Carter suspects there may be community transmission as the majority of people are carrying out Lateral Flow Tests which do not provide specific information regarding strains.

"I'm not that concerned, this is now the strain that is predominant in America," Dr Carter said.

"This has not come out of China, this is a strain that we've known about for a while in America. What there is concern about is that it is more transmissible, but there is no indication of it causing more severe disease, more hospitalisations or more deaths."

"What this may mean for us is we may see another surge of infections happening."

Symptoms for the Kraken variant include headaches and coughs, similar to cold and flu, with "much milder symptoms" compared to earlier Covid strains.

She has also found that loss of taste and smell, a symptom of the original Covid-19 strain is now less prevalent with the new strains.

The original strain of Covid-19 was a "much more severe disease, especially in younger people", and Dr Carter said Gibraltar is now in a very different position, with vaccines, milder strains and more natural immunity.

Dr Carter urged those over 50 to have their booster vaccines to protect themselves.

She said the vaccine is less effective against this new variant as it was engineered for the Omicron, but nonetheless those who are vaccinated will benefit from some immunity.

"The Kraken is almost like a grandson of Omicron, it's the splicing together of two Omicron strains," she said.

Vaccines are still available for walk-ins at the Primary Care Centre between 1pm and 4pm on weekdays.

Dr Carter expects to see peaks and waves of infection throughout 2023, which she said will keep Gibraltar's natural immunity boosted.

"My advice at the moment is that we don't need to increase our level of response at this time," she said.

Mask wearing will still be required within St Bernard’s Hospital (SBH) and Elderly Residential Services (ERS).

Those who test positive for Covid-19 on their Lateral Flow Test are required to isolate at
home and call 111.

A confirmatory test will be arranged if deemed necessary by 111 and the relevant advice given.

LFTs should also be reported online at: https://forms.office.com/e/STb2Uv9Q2e

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