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Scientists monitor new Omicron subvariant as cases spike in Denmark, UK

A NURSE holds swabs and a test tube to test people for Covid-19. | AP Photo Paul Sancya)

A NURSE holds swabs and a test tube to test people for Covid-19. | AP Photo Paul Sancya)

Published Jan 24, 2022

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A new Covid-19 Omicron subvariant has caused a slight spike in cases in countries such as UK and Denmark and could soon replace the original strain of the virus.

The Danish Ministry of Health reported over the weekend that the Omicron subvariant, BA.2, accounted for almost half of new Covid-19 cases.

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The Statens Serum Institut, a governmental public health and research institution under the Danish health ministry, said that vaccines are expected to have an effect against severe illness upon BA.2 infection.

“The subvariant BA.2 accounted for 20% of all Covid-19 cases in Denmark in week 52, increasing to approximately 45% in week two. During the same period, the relative frequency of BA.1 has dropped,” according to the institute.

Graphic: Statens Serum Institut – Weekly trends for covid-19 and other respiratory infections

So far, three subvariants of Omicron have been identified globally, BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3.

While the BA.1 variant accounts for most of the Omicron cases, in Denmark BA.2 is gaining ground.

The subvariant BA.2 has been identified in 40 countries globally. However, the most samples have been uploaded from Denmark, India, Sweden, the UK and Norway.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) revealed on Friday that the Omicron variant BA.2 was designated a VUI (variant under investigation), as cases of the subvariant increased.

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“Overall, the original Omicron lineage, BA.1, is dominant in the UK and the proportion of BA.2 cases is low. The designation was made on the basis of increasing numbers of BA.2 sequences identified both domestically and internationally,” according to the UKHSA.

Over 400 cases of Omicron BA.2 have been identified in the UK, with the earliest dated December 6.

Covid-19 incident director at the agency Dr Meera Chand said there is as yet insufficient evidence to determine whether BA.2 causes more severe illness than Omicron BA.1.

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“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,” she said.

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