WHO in dire Covid warning as 426 cases of new ‘stealth’ Omicron sub-variant found in UK

Coronavirus: GP says "Omicron is beating the booster."

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WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was dangerous to assume that the highly transmissible Omicron was the last variant to emerge,

It comes after the sub-lineage of the Omicron strain has been formally designated as a “variant under investigation” by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

They said on Friday that some 426 cases of BA.2 have been detected in the UK so far.

This is a breaking story. More to follow.

Speaking at the opening of the Executive Board meeting, Tedros said since Omicron was first identified a little over nine weeks ago, more than 80 million cases had been reported to the UN.

He said that conditions “are ideal” for more variants to emerge.

But, he also said it was possible this year to exit the acute phase of the pandemic where COVID-19 constitutes a global health emergency if strategies and tools such as testing and vaccines are used in a comprehensive way.

While BA.1 is still the dominant sublineage in the UK, BA.2 cases do appear to be on the rise in several regions around the world.

In Denmark, it has been suggested that BA.2 may outcompete BA.1.

Denmark reported that the BA.2 accounts for almost half of the country’s cases, and is quickly displacing the original BA.1 strain of Omicron.

But the increasing prevalence of BA.2 over BA.1 should not be a cause for concern, according to the Danish authorities.

Denmark’s Statens Serum Institute said: “Initial analysis shows no differences in hospitalizations for BA.2 compared to BA.1.

“It is expected that vaccines also have an effect against severe illness upon BA.2 infection.”

Ba.2 has earned itself the “stealth” nickname after scientists warned last month that this version of Omicron cannot be distinguished from other variants using the PCR tests.

The largest number of confirmed cases of Ba.2 are in London (146) and the South East (97), the UKHSA said.

Early indications suggest BA.2 has an increased growth rate compared to its viral predecessor, though further analysis is needed, UKHSA said.

Whereas Omicron rapidly displaced Delta following its emergence in the UK, BA.2 has yet to follow suit in dominating Omicron, which accounts for the vast majority of cases.

UKHSA said further analysis will be carried out into BA.2 to determine its characteristics and better understand how it make shape Britain’s epidemic in the weeks to come.

“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,” said Dr Meera Chand, incident director at the agency.

“Our continued genomic surveillance allows us to detect them and assess whether they are significant.”

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