Omicron subvariant found in 57 countries, WHO says
The World Health Organization released a report this week indicating that a new subline of the SARS-Cov-2 Omicron variant has already been detected in 57 countries. According to some researchers, the new version is more contagious than the original Omicron.
In its weekly epidemiological bulletin, the WHO said Omicron accounted for more than 93% of all coronavirus samples collected over the past month. The strain has several sublines: BA.1, BA.1.1, BA.2 and BA.3. The rapidly spreading and mutating Omicron is now globally dominant after it was first detected in southern Africa ten weeks ago, the WHO also said.
The WHO document also showed that BA.1 and BA.1.1 – the first identified versions – continued to represent more than 96% of the omicron sequences uploaded to the global Gisaid database, although the increase in the number of case BA.2 has been substantial.
“To date, 57 countries have submitted sequences designated BA.2 to Gisaid”, underlines the WHO document. He also pointed out that, in some countries, this subvariant now accounts for more than half of the Omicron sequences collected, although little is yet known about the differences between the sublines.
The WHO has also called for studies to be conducted on the matter, including its transmissibility and ability to evade immune protection, as well as its virulence. BA.2 is believed to be more contagious than the original Omicron.
Maria van Kerkhove of the WHO said information on the subvariant was limited, although preliminary data showed BA.2 had “a slightly higher growth rate than BA.1”. She added that there was no reason to fear that BA.2 would be more dangerous than previous versions of Omicron, which generally cause less severe illness than previous strains of the coronavirus.
The WHO also said deaths from Covid-19 increased by 9% globally in the past week, amid a sharp rise in Omicron cases. Deaths rose to 59,000 worldwide and new infections totaled 22 million. The total number of cases since the start of the pandemic two years ago has exceeded 370 million, while reported deaths stand at 5.6 million.
The weekly number of deaths from Covid-19 has particularly increased in Southeast Asia and even worse in India (41%), followed by the Eastern Mediterranean region (32%) and the Americas (16%).