Omicron BA.2 surge: US expert urges WHO to declare it Covid-19 variant of concern

As Omicron subvariant BA.2 spreads, experts are contemplating whether it is more transmissible and severe as past Covid-19 variants.
Omicron subvariant must be a variant of concern. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Team Health Shots Updated: 21 Feb 2022, 16:02 pm IST
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A US-based epidemologist has drawn the World Health Organization’s (WHO) attention to the severity of the BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. This comes in the wake of a recent study which deduced that this sub-strain is not just spreading faster, but may also lead a more severe disease.

Japanese study on Covid-19 subvariant OmicronBA.2

According to reports, this lab study and findings from Japan, are yet to be peer-reviewed. The study was conducted by a team led by experts from the University of Tokyo. The findings were published on preprint repository BioRxiv. “The BA.2 sub variant may have features that make it as capable of causing serious illness as older coronavirus variants,” report agencies.

Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist, called it “worrisome”, in a tweet. Check out the tweet right here!

Last week, WHO addressed the spread of the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron by saying that while it may be more transmissible than BA.1, the latest subvariant is not more severe.

“Among all subvariants, BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1. However, there is no difference in terms of severity,” Maria Van Kerkhova, Covid-19 Technical Lead at WHO, said in a video.

Covid-19 continues to spread across the world

Covid-19 hit the world two years ago, and it has kept people on tenterhooks. After the Delta wave claimed several lives and affected people across the world, the presence of an Omicron variant was reported from Botswana and South Africa in November 2021. Since then, the BA.1 and BA.2 variant have emerged.

As per the authors of the study, the BA.2 variant of Omicron has started ‘outcompeting’ BA.1. This has led them to believe that the former is more transmissible than the original Omicron.

The study also claims that just one the lines of BA.1, the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron appears to mostly escape the immunity induced by Covid-19 vaccines.

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covid-19 vaccine
Covid-19 vaccination is important. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Despite these, we see several countries lifting restrictions and Covid-19 measures.

WHO’s executive director of medical emergencies programme, Dr Mike Ryan, recently also expressed a sense of nervousness about it.

“If we get hit by another variant…it’s going to be really hard to put anything back in place,” he said.

While some countries currently have high vaccination coverage, the rest of the nations need to be still mindful of lifting curbs.

(With inputs from PTI)

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