Stealth Covid variant Omicrons sister under investigation by health chiefs

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An investigation has launched into a new coronavirus variant which has been dubbed "Omicron's sister" after traces were detected in several countries including England.

The new strain, which is also known as BA.2, arose shortly after Omricon [ BA.1 ] variant started to spread and was picked up around early December.

Health officials said it has several of the same mutations as Omricon but case rates at this time are very low.

It has been reported that a series of positive research shows that Omricon is milder compared to other strains in those who have been jabbed, with vaccines still believed to be effective against sub-variant BA.2.

According to experts, there is currently not much to be concerned about at the moment as there is nothing to support that the new strain is more severe.

The sub-variant has escalated in Denmark and has made up half of all Omicron cases but initial studies have suggested there isn't a difference in the likeliness in hospitalisation, reports The Sun.

The new strain seems to be able to spread quicker than the original Omicron, according to data from UKHS, however more research is required to clarify this.

Since December 6 in England, there have been a total of 426 cases of BA.2, with London identifying the most infections at 146.

Data from the Sanger Institute revealed there was an estimated 1,641 UK cases up to January 8. Tests are believed to only detect around ten per cent of the actual amount.

The sub-variant has been noticed in a number of countries since November last year but is nowhere close to outperforming Omicron.

It has been reported that the initial samples were put forward by the Philippines with 40 countries now having reported 8,040 sequences of BA.2.

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Experts have warned that the new strain is missing a key mutation that allows them to detect and raise the cases, which means it could be harder to track.

It has been suggested that BA.2 could be more transmissible, and more difficult to differentiate from other variants when using PCR tests.

But according to Danish health officials, who have witnessed the most cases of the sub-variant so far, the coronavirus vaccine is still as effective.

Countries South Africa, Australia and Canada were the first to spot the new strain, with it initially being found in a South African man who had visited Gauteng.

Dr Meera Chand, Covid-19 Incident Director at UKHSA, commented: “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 LFDs and take a PCR test if symptoms develop”.

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