Home / Science / Health /  Are we looking at another Omicron surge? WHO on severity, transmissibility of subvariant BA.2

With the rise in the number of Omicron sub-variant BA.2 cases, are we looking at another Omicron surge in the coming days? Responding to this, World Health Orgasination (WHO) officials said, considering how fast the variant peaked and then declined, we now have to see whether there is a slowing of decline or we will start to see an increase again. And, if there is an increase in cases again, then we could see further infections of BA.2.

Noting that the UN health agency is tracking several sub-lineages on Omicron, WHO's Maria Van Kerkhove said it is incredible to see how fast the Omicron has taken over Delta and among the sequences that are available we are seeing an increase in the number of sublineage BA.2 cases.

This subvariant appears to be “steadily increasing" and its prevalence has risen in South Africa, Denmark, the UK and other countries.

How severe and transmissible is BA.2? 

There are a lot of studies underway that are comparing different sublineages of Omicron -what we know about their transmissibility, severity and impacts of vaccines. 

“Now among all subvariants, BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1. However, there is no difference in terms of severity."

WHO also pointed out that all other coronavirus variants, including alpha, beta and delta, continue to decline globally as omicron crowds them out. Among the more than 400,000 COVID-19 virus sequences uploaded to the world's biggest virus database in the last week, more than 98% were omicron.

How further COVID waves can be averted?

Time and again, WHO officials have pointed out the role of COVID vaccines in reducing the risks associated with infections. They have asserted that even though the transmission of the virus cannot be stopped at this moment, the rate of hospitalisation and deaths can be brought down immensely.  

In a recent interview, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said, "Our expectation is that the acute phase of this pandemic will end this year, of course with one condition, the 70% vaccination (target is achieved) by mid this year around June, July"

16 mn cases, 75,000 deaths reported last week

The UN health agency said late on Tuesday in its weekly report on the pandemic that just over 16 million new COVID-19 infections and about 75,000 deaths were reported worldwide last week. 

The Western Pacific was the only region to report a rise in new weekly cases, an increase of about 19%, Southeast Asia reported a decrease of about 37%, the biggest drop globally. The number of deaths rose by 38% in the Middle East and by about one-third in the Western Pacific.

However, they pointed out that the decrease in the number of cases might be due the drop in the testing rate across the globe.

Health officials have noted, however, that omicron causes milder disease than previous COVID-19 variants and in countries with high vaccination rates, hospitalisation and death rates have not increased substantially, even with omicron's spread.

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