LONDON - COVID cases have started to rise this summer.

It comes as a new group of variants, known as FLiRT, have emerged in recent weeks.

As the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) pointed out last month, "it’s normal for viruses to mutate and change" - and we have seen this happen regularly since COVID first emerged in 2020.

In any case, here is what we know - and don't know - about the current COVID situation in England.

What we know

First of all, we know recorded COVID cases are on the rise. According to the latest UKHSA data, there were 2,815 in the week up to 19 June, up 707 - 33.5% - from the previous seven-day period.

However, this is a low baseline. As the charts below show, cases and hospital admissions have been much higher during certain periods of the past year, such as last autumn and winter.

We also know deaths with COVID mentioned on the death certificate have slightly increased: 146 in the week to 14 June, up seven - 5% - from the previous seven-day period.

And we know the cases are being driven by a group of COVID variants collectively referred to as FLiRT. FLiRT has been on the rise in the US - and now the UK.

One of the FLiRT variants, KP.3, is “likely dominant now after having overtaken KP.2,” Prof Francois Balloux, chair in computational biology systems biology at University College London, said.

Prof Balloux added “they all cause the same symptoms” and, ultimately, “the current COVID situation is not particularly concerning” in light of the emergence of FLiRT.

What we don't know

We don’t know how many cases FLiRT will cause over the summer, and whether there will be a marked difference to last summer.

We also don’t know how the situation is currently playing out in hospitals. The UKHSA’s most recent data for hospital admissions only goes up to 29 May, when 1,567 people were admitted over a seven-day period, down 151 - 8.8% - from the previous seven days.