Everything we know about the 4 new Covid variants discovered in the UK and Europe

A LOT of new Covid variants have emerged in Europe in the past few weeks.

Since they are sisters, subvariants, or combinations of the ancestors, you might be a bit confused about them – and their meaning.

Illustration of the coronavirus


Illustration of the coronavirusPhoto credit: Getty

BA.2 is currently dominant in the UK.

It is a “sister” of the original Omicron BA.1. They come from the same line or “family”.

Only these two variants are labeled as ‘of concern’ in the UK – but they are milder in terms of the severity of the condition.

All evolved versions of the coronavirus have mutations that cause it to behave slightly differently.

Whether or not these changes give it an advantage — spread faster, cause more severe disease, or bypass immunity — is the real concern.

We give a breakdown of the new virus strains in Europe that health authorities are currently investigating – BA.4, XE, XF and XD.

There is no evidence that these strains cause symptoms different from those people are already familiar with, including fever, sore throat/scratchy throat, cough, runny nose, sneezing, fatigue, aches and pains.


BA.4 is part of the Omicron line.

The UK Health and Safety Agency (UKHSA) first described its existence in its April 8 technical report.

It was said that the first positive swab from BA.4 was found in South Africa in January.

This is where it was first discovered and marked by scientists, but not necessarily its origin.

Countries that have now reported BA.4 include South Africa (41 cases), Denmark (three) and Botswana (two).

There was one case in England and one in Scotland.

“Although the number of total genomes is small, the apparent geographical distribution suggests that the variant is being transmitted successfully,” the UKHSA warned.

Botswana’s Ministry of Health said cases of BA.4 detected in fully vaccinated people aged 30 to 50 were mild, Reuters reported.

The World Health Organization is investigating whether this Omicron strain is better able to dodge vaccines.

So far, the Omicron family has not been able to significantly reduce the effectiveness of jabs. However, two doses are not enough.

A booster is required to protect against Omicron BA.1 and BA.2.

BA.5 is also monitored by leading health authorities, however this has not been detected in Europe or the UK, only in South Africa.


XE has infected at least 1,179 people in the UK, but possibly more since it was first detected in mid-January.

According to the UKHSA, there is evidence it is spreading among the English population, with most cases occurring in London and the east and south-east.

XE is known as a recombinant variant, where the genetics of two strains are mixed together to create a new version.

It combines Omicron BA.1 (dominant at Christmas) and Omicron BA.2 (dominant now) with the addition of three more mutations.

XE is estimated to be spreading 12.6 percent faster than the current BA.2 strain, which by itself is believed to be the fastest spreading variant seen to date.

BA.2 has a growth rate up to 75 percent higher than other Omicron strains.

However, there is no evidence that XE is more severe in terms of disease severity, and Omicon variants have so far been shown to be milder.

Scientists are still studying XE to understand if it has any meaningful mutations.

Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor, UKHSA, said most variants “die off fairly quickly”.

She said: “This particular recombinant, XE, has shown variable growth rate and we cannot yet confirm if it has a real growth advantage.

“So far there is not enough evidence to draw any conclusions about the transmissibility, severity or effectiveness of the vaccine.”


Mixing the British Delta strain and the original Omicron, XF is nicknamed “Deltacron”.

A small number of cases (38) have been found in the UK but have not been detected since mid-February, UKHSA said.

It is considered a supervised variant but is not of concern.

France, Denmark and Belgium have also identified cases of XF.


XD has the “backbone” of the French Delta strain, with the addition of Omicron mutations.

It has emerged in several European countries and caused several hundred infections, mostly in France.

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But at this point it hasn’t been seen in the UK.

The UKHSA said: “Although the total number of genomes is still small, it was named on the basis that data published from France suggests that they may be biologically distinct.” Everything we know about the 4 new Covid variants discovered in the UK and Europe

Fry Electronics Team

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