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Covid hospitalisation increased...: WHO on severity of Omicron BA.4, BA.5, BA.2.12.1

Speaking on another subvariant BA.2.12.1, the WHO official said that studies are underway to determine its severity and transmissibility. (REUTERS)Premium
Speaking on another subvariant BA.2.12.1, the WHO official said that studies are underway to determine its severity and transmissibility. (REUTERS)

  • When we are looking at a variant of concerns or any variant circulating globally, what we are looking at is whether there are any changes in severity and transmissibility in immune escape and reinfections.

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With Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 leading another COVID surge in South Africa, World Health Organisation (WHO) said that it's currently evaluating their severity and transmissibility. Further stressing that there is a slight increase in hospitalisation in South Africa, WHO said that experts are now trying to determine whether it is due to the emergence of the two new sub-variants.

Elaborating on this, WHO's Maria Van Kerkhove said, So, BA.4 and BA.5 have been detected in many countries and currently, we are evaluating their severity and transmissibility. What we are looking at specifically is whether there is an increase in the rate of hospitalisation. It is still very early days to determine that. However, we are starting to see a little bit of an increase in hospitalisation in South Africa but that is also due to the increase in cases. What experts are now trying to determine is whether it is due to BA.4 or BA.5.

On the immune escape of the two variants, she said, with all sublineages with Omicron, there is some level of immune escape. Studies are currently underway looking at whether BA.4 or BA.5 also have immune escape properties.

“When we are looking at a variant of concerns or any variant circulating globally, what we are looking at is whether there are any changes in severity and transmissibility in immune escape and reinfections. And of course, the countermeasures like diagnostic, therapeutics and vaccines."

The highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19, which was first detected in southern Africa in November last year and rapidly spread globally, is now the dominant variant, accounting for almost all new cases. WHO's latest report showed that the sub-lineages "have acquired a few additional mutations that may impact their characteristics."

The WHO has officially recorded more than 6.2 million Covid deaths worldwide since the start of the pandemic, but the true toll is believed to be far higher. However, the number of newly reported cases and deaths are now declining.

Global deaths due to Covid-19 have fallen to the lowest levels since March 2020, with about 15,000 fatalities last week, according to the WHO.

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