New Covid-19 variant Centaurus: Should we be worried?

Centaurus is the new, reportedly highly contagious and fast-spreading Covid-19 variant that has arrived in the UK.

A new Covid-19 variant has arrived in the UK. Virologists have voiced concerns about the reportedly highly contagious and fast-spreading Centaurus variant.

What is the Centaurus variant?

Centaurus or BA.2.75 is a sub-variant of Omicron. First detected in India in May, and rapidly spreading in the country since, it has now been detected in 10 other countries, including the UK, Germany, US, Canada, and Australia.

The new variant is thought to spread even quicker than the Omicron BA.5 and BA.2 variants. Indeed, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) designated Centaurus as a 'variant under monitoring' on 7 July, meaning there are suggestions it could be more transmissible, as per The Independent.

Should we be worried?

Virologists are concerned due to the large number of extra mutations Centaurus contains compared to BA.2, from which it is likely to have evolved. Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, said, as reported by The Guardian:

It’s hard to predict the effect of that many mutations appearing together – it gives the virus a bit of a ‘wildcard’ property where the sum of the parts could be worse than the parts individually.
It is definitely a potential candidate for what comes after BA.5. Failing that, it’s probably the sort of thing we’ll have come along next, ie a 'variant of a variant'.

It is thought that some of these mutations may mean the new variant can evade immunity from vaccination or previous infection.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified Centaurus as a variant of interest, instead of a variant of concern, as reported by The Conversation. This means it’s being monitored but there’s not yet enough evidence about its severity.

Earlier this week, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the pandemic is still a global emergency and he is 'concerned' about the recent rise in cases. He said:

The virus is running freely, and countries are not effectively managing the disease burden. New waves of the virus demonstrate again that Covid is nowhere near over.

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Covid-19: New Omicron subvariant dominates in the UK Covid-19: New Omicron subvariant dominates in the UK