In what appears to be an extremely worrying sign, the UK Health Security Agency has designated a sub-lineage of the extremely contagious and infectious Omicron variant and taken it under its investigation. In its preliminary comments, the health agency has said that the variant which shares the lineage with the Omicron variant could also have growth advantages, news agency Reuters reported. The strain which has for now been scientifically been identified as BA.2 is currently being probed but for now has not been designated as a variant of concern.
Dr Meera Chand, incident director at the UKHSA was quoted as saying that the nature of the viruses is such that they keep on evolving and mutate in several forms. Dr Chand further said that the genomic surveillance undertaken by the health agency is a move aimed at understanding whether the variant is of concern.
On the whole, the UK has traced 426 cases of the BA.2 sub-lineage and the UK health agency has said that the cases of BA.2 sequence have also been reported in Denmark, India, Sweden and Singapore. It also said that as per the early analysis, the BA.2 strain has a growth advantage even over the BA.1 strain which is the original Omicron variant.
The number of BA.2 cases has also grown rapidly in Denmark which has seen as many as 20 percent of the new cases reported in the last week of 2021 linked to the new strain. Anders Fomsgaard, researcher at Statens Serum Institut (SSI) was quoted as saying that the growth advantage to the new strain has puzzled him but it certainly does not worry him at this stage. Asked about the emergence of the BA.2 strain as the dominant variant replacing the original Omicron variant Anders said that it remains a possibility and in that case the world could witness two peaks of the Coronavirus pandemic.
However, the world might be relieved to know that the initial trend of hospitalisation rate and mortality has suggested that there is not much difference in hospitalisation between BA.2 and BA.1, as per the analysis conducted in Denmark.