Covid: BA.2 the Omicron sub-variant: everything we know

·2-min read

A new sub-variant of Covid has been discovered in the UK and is now classified as a variant under investigation by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The BA.2 strain was classified as a variant under investigation on January 22.

Here is what we know so far:

How many cases are in the UK?

On January 21, there were 426 cases of the variant across the country, the UKHSA reported.

While cases remain low the variant, which is a sub-strain of Omicron, may be more transmissible according to some early studies.

The first cases in the UK were reported on December 6, with London so far recording 146 and the South East, 97.

Has the variant been reported elsewhere?

Danish authorities have also reported the new strain, claiming it may account for up to 45 percent of all cases in Denmark, the country’s Statens Serum Institut said.

Danish media outlets have also nicknamed the strain, “stealth Omicron”.

The first cases were reported in the Philippines but have also been reported in India, Sweden and Singapore.

Is it worse than Omicron?

The new strain comes up as a being S-gene positive under PCR tests, while Omicron does not.

As Omicron lacked the S-gene, it made it much easier to detect as it spread across the country and BA.2 is harder to distinguish from other variants.

While there are fears the variant may be more transmissible, there is not enough data at this stage.

As it stands, health experts claim there is little difference in vaccine effectiveness between BA.2 and Omicron.

What have the experts said?

Last week, Dr Meera Chand, Covid-19 Incident Director at UKHSA, said: “It is the nature of viruses to evolve and mutate, so it’s to be expected that we will continue to see new variants emerge as the pandemic goes on.

“Our continued genomic surveillance allows us to detect them and assess whether they are significant.

“So far, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether BA.2 causes more severe illness than Omicron BA.1, but data is limited and UKHSA continues to investigate.

“Case rates remain high throughout the UK and we must remain vigilant and take up vaccinations.

“We should all continue to test regularly with LFTs and take a PCR test if symptoms develop.”

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