Various media across Scandinavia and the UK are reporting the emergence of a new Covid variant that is so infectious and spreading so fast that nearly half of all cases in Denmark are now the new mutation, named BA.2, with more than 400 confirmed infections across the UK.
The new mutation has reportedly also popped up in Norway, Sweden, Singapore and India.
Reuters reports that UK health authorities are investigating 426 confirmed cases of BA.2 in Britain, while officials in Denmark said that just over 45 per cent of all new infections in the country are now the new variant.
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. So what do we know so far?
BA.2 outpacing Omicron variant
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.
BA.2 infection after Omicron seen in Norway
Anders Fomsgaard, who is chief physician and virus researcher at the Statens Serum Institut (SSI), told Danish media that a few cases have been seen in Norway where people who have been infected with Omikron have subsequently been infected with BA.2.
He reportedly called it “remarkable” that Omicron and BA.2 have significant differences when it comes to immunity and infection.
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”.
Covid vaccines should still be effective, however, one of the reasons for BA.2’s rapid spread may be that it is more resistant to people’s immunity, “which allows the variant to infect better,” Fomsgaard reportedly said.