South Africa where one of the first cases of the Omicron variant was first noticed is also seeing more cases of the BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
However, there are reports that there is no clear sign that the BA.2 is substantially different from the “original” strain, says a senior scientist on Friday.
According to data presented by Michelle Groome from the National Institute for Communicable Disease showed that the BA.2 “sub-strain” accounted for 23% of the 450 samples from January sequenced by South Africa’s genomic surveillance network and the original strain 75%.
Of the 2,243 samples from December that were sequenced, BA.2 accounted for 4% and the original strain 94%.
“We are seeing this increase with the BA.2, we are still trying to get more information on this particular sub-lineage … and so we are increasing sequencing from those provinces where we are seeing increases (in cases) monitoring the proportion that is due to BA.2,” Groome told a news conference.
“At this stage, there is no indication that there would be … differences between these different sub-lineages of Omicron. As we saw with Delta there were lots of lineages and we didn’t see a lot of difference between them, but we will keep monitoring,” she added.
When Groome was asked if there were signs that the BA.2 was causing different symptoms, she replied that she wasn’t expecting marked changes. That said, scientists will analyze hospitalization data for clues about the severity of illnesses linked to the sub-variant.
The country of South Africa has entered its fourth wave of the COVID-19 infection which is driven by the omicron variants late last year just after alerting the world of the emergence of the highly-transmissible variant.
However, the number of daily reported cases started to decline from mid-December after a record 26,000 cases were reported. The country has been able to stabilize the number of cases in recent weeks down to about 3,000 new cases each day.
The country’s health minister Joe Phaahla made it known that the country wasn’t out of the fourth wave just yet and there could in fact be the fifth wave in winter. He also added that the past two weeks had been a bit of a “stalemate” in terms of new cases.
“There’s no serious decline and yet no worrying rise in infections,” he said, adding that the opening of schools and increased movement after the holidays could be reasons why there had not been a larger drop in new infections.