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2 more Omicron subvariant reported in Australia

New variants of Omicron – BA.5 and BA.2.12.1 – have been detected in NSW and at least six BA.4 infections, which were first identified last week.

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These patterns were observed in mostly volunteers who had severe COVID-19. (File)

The New South Wales (NSW) in Australia has detected another two Omicron subvariants. According to reports, these subvariants are driving a increase in COVID-19 infections overseas as health officials have confirmed that at least 11,000 people across the state have caught the COVID-19 more than once.

New variants of Omicron – BA.5 and BA.2.12.1 – have been detected in NSW and at least six BA.4 infections, which were first identified last week.

Meanwhile, health experts are monitoring the proliferation of subvariants, including BA.4, BA.5 and BA.2.12.1, which have driven sudden infection surges in South Africa and New York. The African country is now facing a potential fifth wave after a sustained rise in infections, test positivity rates, and hospital admissions.

Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant cautioned against looking to the experiences of other countries to predict what may come next in NSW.

While the emergence of BA.4 led to a significant wave in South Africa, Chant noted it had not experienced widespread BA.2 infections, and that could mean the new subvariant has less of an impact here, although this was something public health teams the world over were collaborating to determine.

“We are preparing that there will be future waves, but it may be a different variant to BA.4 or BA.5,” Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant said and cautioned against looking to the experiences of other countries to predict what may happen in NSW.

“Australia has had a lot of infection but also extremely high vaccination coverage. If you look at the average antibody levels, they are probably higher in Australia than in South Africa,” Professor Allen Cheng, outgoing co-chair of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation said. Cheng also informed that there was no evidence to suggest subvariants caused more severe disease.

According to NSW Health’s latest surveillance report, the two BA.5 cases and six BA.4 cases were identified with a separate genetic sequencing database, GISAID, and it detected at least four BA.2.12.1 cases. Experts are speculating that there has been household transmission of BA.4 and BA.5 locally.

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