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UK government monitoring new ‘BA.2’ variant of Omicron – what we know

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The Government has revealed that it is monitoring a sub-variant of Omicron that may be more transmissible.

According to Yahoo News a sister variant of the usual BA.1 variant of Omicron, BA.2, has been detected in various European countries.

BA.2 shares similarities with BA.1, and they are both considered to be Omicron.

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However, it has different S-gene mutations compared to BA.1, which means when carrying out a PCR test BA.2 shows positive for the S-gene while BA.1 does not.

The fact BA.1 lacked the S-gene was key to detecting and tracking the spread of Omicron early on.

BA.2 is spreading quickly in places like India and the Philippines, and early signs show it is growing in the UK, Germany and Denmark.

There are some indications it may be more transmissible, but experts say there is no conclusive evidence as of yet.

It was first designated as a variant on December 6, 2022 and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) noted an increase in the number of BA.2 cases from January 3 this year.

Will the BA.2 variant be more severe?

There aren’t any indications yet if this new Omicron variant will cause more severe illness.

Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, speaking to Yahoo News, said the earliest indications from Denmark and India “suggest there is no dramatic difference in severity compared to BA.1.

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“There is likely to be minimal differences in vaccine effectiveness against BA.1 and BA.2.”

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