The new Covid variant BA.2, first detected at the end of last week, is spreading rapidly across the globe, as the new mutation has now popped up in more than 40 countries around the world, according to various reports.
Also called ‘stealth omicron,’ the World Health Organization has reported cases of BA.2 in dozens of countries in recent days, including the UK, US, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, India, Germany and Australia.
The new Covid variant is so infectious and spreading so fast that half of all cases in Denmark are now the new mutation, while authorities in the UK have started to investigate nearly 500 confirmed BA.2 cases.
There are reportedly 146 cases in London with another 100 in the south east of England.
Extremely mild so far
So far, BA.2’s symptoms seem to be extremely mild and some Covid experts are cautiously optimistic the new variant is even milder than Omicron.
In fact, Omicron seems to be acting like a ‘super booster’ to the new mutation, as it provides enhanced protection and weakens the new variant, explained Thomas Unnasch, a USF Health Professor at the College of Public Health in the US.
“Omicron is acting like a super booster,” Unnasch told various media. “People who have gotten omicron are going to be really well protected against infection, which is a really good sign.”
‘BA.2’ is a sub-variant of omicron and has been labelled a “variant under investigation” by UK health officials who are monitoring the newest strain.
“People who have gotten an infection are probably going to be in really great shape moving forward.”Thomas Unnasch
However, James Musser, director of the Center for Molecular and Translational Human Infectious Diseases Research at Houston Methodist in Texas, said to various local TV stations that BA. 2 deserves close attention because little is known about it yet.
“We know that omicron … can clearly evade pre-existing immunity from both vaccines and exposure to other variants of the virus,” Musser said.
“What we don’t know yet is whether son-of-omicron does that better or worse than omicron. So that’s an open question,” he added.
Over the weekend, WHO representatives have rushed to Copenhagen to investigate BA.2, nicknamed ‘stealth Omicron’ in Danish media as the mutation seems to be pushing the Omicron variant aside fairly quickly.
Covid experts and researchers point out that there is still much we do not know about BA.2 as it has only been arounds for a very short time.
BA.2 outpacing Omicron
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies Omicron as B.1, On December 23, the WHO reported that over 99 per cent of the cases it sequenced were BA.1.
However, the rise of BA.2 in Denmark and elsewhere suggests that BA.2 may outcompete BA.1.
The country’s new Covid infections have shot to record highs in recent weeks. Denmark recorded over 30,000 new cases per day this week, 10 times more cases than during peaks in previous waves.
Allan Randrup, professor of experimental virology at the University of Copenhagen, said however that “so far we have not seen any variants of covid-19 that have not had any cross-immunity at all, and that immunity after infection is usually good.”
“The system will be high-armed when you have just overcome an infection,” said Randrup.
Viggo Andreasen, who is a professor of mathematical epidemiology at Roskilde University, explained in various media that other viruses that circulate between people can infect people every few years, “this also applies to the flu,” he stressed.
‘New piece in the Covid game’
According to multiple reports, BA.2 causes mild symptoms.
Fomsgaard said people should not be too worried, at least not yet, despite the speed at which BA.2 is spreading.
“We can not see any difference in hospitalization numbers, death rates and so with BA.2, “so it is not something that worries us yet.”
“But we are also aware that we have a very short observation time,” he added, referring to the fact that BA.2 is still “a new piece in the Covid game.”
Therefore, his belief is that “right now we should just treat it as yet another variant until new data should eventually show other results”.