The first cases of the new sub-variant of Omicron have been detected in Wales.
Omicron BA.2 – which has been called the ‘stealth variant’ by scientists due to it being harder to detect – has spread rapidly across several countries, with hundreds of cases detected in England last week.
Public Health Wales has confirmed that “small numbers” of the Covid variant have now been found in Wales, while the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has declared it a ‘variant under investigation’ with experts closely monitoring its growth, North Wales Live reports.
While the rapid spread of BA.2 has led to concerns that it may be more transmissible than previous strains, this has yet to be confirmed.
Recently published UKHSA data also suggests that there will be no change in vaccine effectiveness against the new variant.
“Recently published data from the UKHSA suggests that there is no change in vaccine effectiveness compared to the BA.1 variant.
“Evidence from European countries with significant numbers of BA.2 cases suggests that this variant is no more severe than BA.1.”
The sub-variant was first spotted in South Africa in November. While it has 32 of the same mutations as the first Omicron BA.1, it also has a further 28 mutations that are different.
The strain has been found in several countries, including the UK, Germany, India and Denmark, where the proportion of cases caused by BA.2 is increasing.
Experts are still trying to analyse the full extent of the rise of this new variant but have not fully concluded if it is more severe than the previous Omicron.
Dr Meera Chand, Covid-19 Incident Director at UKHSA, said: “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.”
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