Omicron: This is what we know so far about the 'stealth' sub-variant

There's a new sub-variant of the Omicron lineage that has been detected in several countries including the UK. Here's what we know so far.

Now that the worst of the Omicron wave is over, the UK has been phasing out of plan B in an effort to live with the coronavirus. All the restrictions are expected to be lifted tomorrow (26 January), including mandatory wearing of face masks and vaccine passports.

Omicron sub-variant

However, what was supposed to be a new beginning is being overshadowed once again by the threat of yet another emerging Omicron sub-variant—BA.2, also being called the Omicron 'stealth' variant.

The UK Health Security Agency has revealed that they’ve been investigating another sub-variant of the Omicron lineage that has infected over 400 people in the UK so far. BA.2 has already been identified in 40 other countries, including Denmark, India, the Philippines, Sweden, Singapore, and South Africa. According to The Independent, Danish authorities reported that the strain was responsible for 45% of their cases in the second week of January.

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Under investigation

The UKHSA has currently listed the Omicron sub-variant as a ‘variant under investigation’ and stated that more work needs to be done to find out how transmissible it is and if it can evade current vaccines. Dr. Meera Chand, incident director at the UKHSA said:

It’s to be expected that we will continue to see new variants emerge.
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.

In a recent report which was published on 21 January, the World Health Organisation acknowledged the presence of the ‘stealth’ variant and said that its presence was in fact growing. They wrote:

While the BA.1 lineage has previously been the most dominant, recent trends from India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Denmark suggest that BA.2 is increasing in proportion.
Drivers of transmission and other properties of BA.2 are under investigation but remain unclear to date.
Omicron: NHS raises alert to highest level as new variant takes over UK Omicron: NHS raises alert to highest level as new variant takes over UK