BA.2 Omicron variant is spreading rapidly, even as the number of cases and deaths worldwide decreases

As the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) reported on Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a new report this week showing that the omicron BA.2 subvariant now accounts for more than 1 in 5 new coronavirus infections detected worldwide, and the variant is increasing both in countries where cases are increasing and decreasing.

As the American Medical Association explains, the BA.2 variant is sometimes referred to as the “stealth” omicron because it has genetic mutations that could make it harder to distinguish the delta variant using PCR tests, compared to the original omicron version.

BA.2 is now widespread in 10 countries: Bangladesh, Brunei, China, Denmark, Guam, India, Montenegro, Nepal, Pakistan and the Philippines. The WHO says early evidence indicates the variant is more transmissible, but at this stage there is no evidence that BA.2 is more harmful, and vaccines appear to be just as effective against it as against the strain. original omicron.

New research suggests that BA.2 may have characteristics that make it as capable of causing severe disease as previous variants such as delta, such as reported by CNN.

According to a pre-publication studythe researchers stated that “our data suggest the possibility that BA.2 is the variant of greatest concern for global health…we propose that BA.2 be recognized as a single variant of concern, and this variant of SARS-CoV-2 should be closely monitored.

RELATED: Get the latest news on COVID-19 in the Daily Coronavirus Alert

Data received by WHO to February 14 showed that the number of new cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide continued to decline, with 2.7 million new cases last week, a 16% drop from the previous week. The number of new deaths reported has also fallen, with 81,000 new deaths reported last week, down 10% from the previous week.

As a medical news site Helio reported last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began reporting the proportion of COVID-19 cases in the United States caused by BA.2, and although the subvariant accounted for only 3.6% of infections in the country for the week ending February 5, this percentage is three times the amount it represented the previous week.

Figures presented by the The New York Times Thursday said infections were rising in Belarus, Latvia and Slovakia. Cases have increased by 79% in two weeks in Russia.

CIDRAP add that this week South Korea daily infections topped 90,000 for the first time, Hong Kong beat its daily case total by hitting 4,000, Singapore hit a new daily high of more than 19,000 new cases, and Indonesia also reported a record high, with daily cases exceeding 57,000.

In a live Q&A Wednesday, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, warned that testing rates have changed around the world and that could skew the numbers. “We have to be careful in interpreting this downward trend; it is likely that there are a large number of cases that we are missing,” she said. She also fears that the death toll is still very high. “At this point in the pandemic, where we have tools that can save lives, that’s way, way too much.”

For now, the WHO is still concerned that there is too much virus circulating at an intense level. Van Kerkhove warned: “If you have a large number of cases like we see, the possibility of even more variants is higher.”

Back To Top