Omicron BA.2 appears to be more infectious than the original BA.1 sub-variant but does not cause more severe disease, Africa’s top public health body said citing data. The affirmation comes at a time when a recent lab study revealed that the Omicron subvariant can cause far more severe infection than the previously identified BA.1.
“South Africa is reporting that it is more transmissible than the BA.1 variant, but interestingly and very encouragingly the severity seems to be the same,” said Dr John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
South Africa was one of the first countries to detect the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which has since swept around the globe and become dominant in most places.
Although South Africa is well over the peak of its Omicron wave, its daily number of new infections has stabilised around 3,000 per day, a higher level than that seen at the tail end of previous waves of COVID-19 infections.
What did the Japanese study say on Omicron BA.2
A Japanese lab study has recently revealed that Omicron BA.2 may have features that make it capable of causing serious illness. The subvariant shows immune escape properties just like BA.1. Further stealth Omicron is resistant to treatments like the monoclonal antibody.
Noting that such studies (Japanese lab study) are extremely critical in looking for severity signals, World Health Organisation (WHO) has pointed out that the preprint suggests that BA.2 can cause serious infections in hamsters. But, similar studies among humans have revealed that the severity level of both the sub-variants is the same.
WHO, however, has been maintaining that Omicron may be milder than Delta, but it is not mild.
Previously, WHO also pointed out that all other coronavirus variants, including alpha, beta and delta, continue to decline globally as omicron crowds them out. Meanwhile, the subvariant BA.2 appears to be “steadily increasing” and its prevalence has risen in South Africa, Denmark, the UK and other countries.