New Omicron sub-variant found in UK: Everything we know so far

The UK health officials identified more than 400 cases of a so-called sub-variant of Omicron yesterday.

There is early evidence to suggest that it may spread faster than the original Omicron Covid strain, but it is too early for experts to make a definitive call on this.

Investigations are being carried out to see how much of an impact this could have on Scotland the rest of the UK’s Covid recovery plans.

Here is what we know about the variant so far.

What is the Omicron sub variant

The Omicron sub variant, which has been named BA.2, was first identified in the UK health officials yesterday.

Experts at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) labeled the Covid strain as a “variant under investigation” amid a number of cases being found both internationally and domestically.

Early studies say that BA.2 could have an “increased growth rate” compared to the original Omicron strain.

However, the UKHSA say that it is too early to be definitive on this finding and further analysis is required.

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It has also been claimed that BA.2 lacks the S-gene drop out, which was a telltale sign of Omicron infection in lab analysis – suggesting that it may be tougher to track down.

Little is known on the impact it may have on the course of the pandemic, and whether or not it causes more severe symptom than the original Omicron strain.

Dr Meera Chand of the UK Health Security Agency said that it is the nature of viruses to mutate, and this latest one was ‘to be expected’.

In a statement, she added: “So far, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether BA.2 causes more severe illness than Omicron BA.1, but data is limited and UKHSA continues to investigate.

“[Covid] case rates remain high throughout the UK and we must remain vigilant to take up vaccinations.

“We should all continue to test regularly with LFDs and take a PCR test if symptoms develop.”

How many cases in UK so far?

Officials say that 426 cases of BA.2 have been found in the UK so far. 146 of those cases were discovered in London, with 97 in the south east of England.

The number of people that have come down with BA.2 in Scotland currently remains unclear. The UKHSA say that data for the devolved administrations will “follow in due course”.

Cases elsewhere in the world

Scientists in the Philippines were the first to submit evidence of the BA.2 variant, according to the UKHSA.

Denmark has uploaded the most samples of the Covid strain, with 6,411 cases recorded so far.

Other countries that have uploaded more than 100 samples include India (530), Sweden (181) and Singapore (127).

BA.2 has been found in 40 countries since mid-November.

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