- Omicron now has four strains spreading about the world, the World Health Organisation has warned.
- Delta previously split into more than 200 variants before Omicron overtook it.
- Only a minority of the 20 mutations distinguishing BA.1 from BA.2 fall within regions of the genome important for antibody immune recognition.
- With only two doses, protection against severe disease drops to around 70% after three months and to 50% after six months.
The World Health Organization has warned that Omicron currently has four strains that are spreading over the world as reported by GB News.
The mutant variant has grown a number of separate lineages since coming out last year.
Delta previously split into more than 200 variants before Omicron overtook it.
Health officials have repeatedly said that Covid booster jabs offer the best chance to get through the pandemic.
Now, BA.2 and BA.3 have been recorded as new sub-variants in the Omicron group.
A WHO report from January 21 said: “While the BA.1 lineage has previously been the most dominant, recent trends from India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Denmark suggest that BA.2 is increasing in proportion.”
Prof Francois Balloux, Professor of Computational Systems Biology and Director, UCL Genetics Institute, UCL, said: “Viruses tend to evolve fairly fast with different strains constantly acquiring mutations over time.”
“SARS-CoV-2 is no exception to this pattern, with each lineage acquiring two mutations a month on average.”
BA.1 and BA.2 are about 20 mutations apart.
“As such, it is anticipated that infection by either sub-lineage should provide robust immunity against the other one, as well as against itself.”
“There is no evidence so far that BA.1 and BA.2 are different in respect of immune escape, virulence or the age profile they preferentially infect.”
The number of deaths involving coronavirus registered each week in England and Wales has climbed to its highest level for 10 months.
A total of 1,382 deaths registered in the week ending January 14 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is up 50% on the previous seven days and is the highest number since 1,501 deaths were registered in the week to March 12 2021.
The sharp week-on-week jump in deaths is likely to have been affected by the bank holiday on January 3, when register offices were closed, leading to a backlog of registrations needing to be cleared, the ONS said.
But the latest figures also reflect the recent surge in Covid-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant of the virus.
A record 4.3 million people in private households in the UK are estimated to have had coronavirus in the first week of this year – the equivalent of one in 15 people in England and one in 20 in Wales.
The Omicron wave is now having an impact on death registrations, though numbers are still well below the level seen at the peak of the second wave of the virus last year.
Some 8,433 deaths involving Covid-19 were registered in England and Wales in the week to January 29 2021, more than six times the 1,382 registered in the week to January 14 2022.
The relatively low number of deaths seen during the current wave reflects the success of the vaccination programme, in particular, the rollout of booster doses at the end of last 2021.
With only two doses, protection against severe disease drops to around 70% after three months and to 50% after six months.
The highest number on a single day was 1,485 on January 19 2021.
During the first wave of the virus, the daily toll peaked at 1,461 on April 8 2020.
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Source: GB News