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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor


‘Barbenheimer effect’? New Covid-19 strain, Eris, detected in UK, infections on the rise

Experts speculate the recent rise in UK Covid-19 cases might even be due to the 'Barbenheimer effect' spreading the new variant Eris.


Bad weather and the so-called ‘Barbenheimer effect’ have been cited as possible reasons for a rapid spike in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations since the detection of the new variant dubbed Eris.

Eris is named after the Greek goddess of discord and strife.

Eris on the rise:

According to the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Eris already makes up one in seven new cases.

Rapid spread of new Covid-19 strain

In the relatively short span of time since its detection in the UK at the end of May, it has also become the second-most common strain of the coronavirus in the UK after Arcturus.

According to My London, Eris is also spreading rapidly across Europe, Asia and North America. Japan said it is seeing a “ninth wave” of Covid infections. 

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Bad weather, ‘Barbenheimer effect’

Experts have been speculating that the ‘Barbenheimer effect’, the social media frenzy around the concurrent release of Barbie and Oppenheimer on 21 July.

It may have been playing a role in the rise of infections.

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick University, told the Mail Online that “increased cinema attendance” and “more indoor mixing” due to bad weather, as well as waning immunity from previous vaccinations or infections, may have contributed.

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Eris variant more dangerous?

Professor Young emphasised that there was “no evidence” the new Eris variant is more dangerous or causes more severe disease than other strains circulating, including its ancestor Omicron.

Scientists at the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially started tracking the EG.5.1 variant (Eris) a few weeks ago.

Globally, Eris accounts for around 20% of Covid sequences in Asia, 10% of sequences from Europe, and 7% in North America. 

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