'Variant Under Investigation': What is Known About Omicron BA.2
11:12 GMT 23.01.2022 (Updated: 15:17 GMT 28.05.2023)
Earlier this week, virologist Tom Peacock of Imperial College London tweeted that as far as Omicron BA.2 is concerned, "very early observations from India and Denmark suggest there is no dramatic difference in severity compared to BA.1".
Experts at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have described the Omicron sub-variant BA.2 as a "variant under investigation" amid a number of cases being found in Britain and beyond. So, what is known about this new COVID strain at present?
· The Omicron sub-variant was first identified in India and South Africa in late December 2021.
· The new strain is believed to have emerged from a mutation of Omicron, officially known as BA.1.
· BA.2 is thought to have over 20 mutations, with about half of them being part of the spike protein that interacts with human cells and is the key to the process of coronavirus entering a human body.
22 January 2022, 19:30 GMT
· The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently does not distinguish between BA.1 and BA.2 as the sub-variant is now under intense scrutiny by the global scientific community.
· Some say BA.2 poses certain challenges to scientists, as it is not easy to track in terms of PCR test protocol-related detection.
· The sub-variant has already been detected in at least 43 countries, with increasing cases in such countries as India, the UK, France, Denmark, and Sweden.
· French Health Minister Olivier Veran believes BA.2 doesn't look as if it is "a game-changer" because COVID variants appear on the scene "fairly regularly".
· Virologist Tom Peacock of Imperial College London suggests "there is likely to be minimal differences in vaccine effectiveness against BA.1 and BA.2".
· He also argues he is "not sure BA.2 is going to have a substantial impact on the current Omicron wave of the pandemic".