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Omicron BA.2 still very high; UK study reveals how it is affecting us

Even as the high level of coronavirus infections has receded across England, the presence of BA.2 sub-lineage of the Omicron variant is still very high, recent studies have shown.  Experts pointed out, due to the absence of certain genetic changes this variant can be distinguished easily from others.

“It’s encouraging that infections have been falling across England, but they are still very high and the possibility that they are rising in older adults may be cause for concern,” said Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT programme from Imperial’s School of Public Health.

“The good news is that this is a highly vaccinated group, however, a high number of infections will lead to more people becoming ill, so it’s important that people continue to follow public health guidance to avoid fuelling further spread of the virus,” he said.

The analysis by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, based on around 95,000 swab tests taken between February 8 and March 1, showed that the highest rates of BA.2 were found in London.

The Imperial team read the genetic codes of the virus from 1,195 positive samples, finding that all but one were the Omicron variant or the offshoot sub-variant BA.2, with the other being Delta. Almost half (47.2 per cent) were the BA.2, which is a variant under investigation in the UK. This marks a substantial increase from the study’s previous findings when 0.8 per cent were BA.2 in January, and suggests that this sub-variant spreads more easily than other circulating variants.

And experts continue to warn that the pandemic is not over yet and precautions were still required.

“These data confirm that cases have declined substantially following the peak of the Omicron wave. However, the increasing presence of the BA.2 sub-lineage of Omicron and the recent slight increase in infections in those over 55 show that the pandemic is not over and that we can expect to see COVID circulating at high levels,” said Dr. Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKSA). 

“Vaccination remains the best way to protect us all from severe disease and hospitalisation due to COVID-19 infection. We urge you to come forward for your primary or booster doses straight away if you have not already done so,” she said.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid added: “It is reassuring to see that COVID-19 cases have continued to fall as we learn to live with the virus and regain our freedoms.

“We must continue to protect each other where necessary. Vaccines remain our best line of defence against the virus. If you haven’t already, please Get Boosted Now.”


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