World Health Organization: The latest Covid variants are a cause for concern

The World Health Organization (WHO) is tracking a small number of coronavirus cases caused by two new subvariants of the Omicron strain.

“Sister variants” of the Omicron variant BA.1 have been included in the WHO watch list, Reuters reported. Experts are now determining whether these new strains are BA.4 and BA. 5, are “more infectious or dangerous” than previous variants.

Cases of the two new subvariants have so far been detected in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Great Britain. The US government’s coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, “admonished calm,” telling NBC’s Today, “I don’t think this is a moment for us to worry unduly.”

Omicron was first identified in South Africa on November 24 and was quickly labeled a “variant of concern” by the WHO – the highest severity for Covid variants.

What are the worrying variants?

As viruses make copies of themselves to spread, their genetic instructions can change a bit, explains dr Richard Pebodywho leads the team on highly dangerous pathogens at the WHO Regional Office for Europe.

Although these mutations are “usually not significant,” they can occasionally result in a variant that’s more easily transmissible or more severe than the original, he says. These are therefore more cause for concern than others.

Two worrying variants are currently circulating.

  • Delta (B.1.617.2): B.1.617.2, known as the Indian variant, was classified in May 2021. It has been found to be highly transmissible and was the most prevalent variant in the UK between 1st June and 27th November last year. Its severity also gave cause for concern. A study published in The lancet in August showed that people infected with the delta variant were twice as likely to require hospitalization as those infected with the original alpha strain. UK Government data points out that as of April 8 there were more than 1.7 million Covid cases in the UK.
  • Omicron (B.1.1.529) Cases of this variant were first identified in South Africa in November 2021 and are now dominant in the UK. It is “strikingly different” from other Covid strains “because of the long list of genetic mutations it has undergone,” he said BBC. Studies have suggested the variant is milder than others, but the “dozens of changes” it has undergone mean the current Covid vaccines “may not be a perfect match for Omicron.”

There are other variants that have raised concerns but “no longer pose a major additional risk to global public health compared to other circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.” These include:

  • Alpha (B.1.1.7): Specimens of this mutation, also known as the Kent variant, were first documented in September 2020. It was identified as a variant of concern on Dec. 18, which — as The I Newspaper noted – ‘led to strict Covid-19 restrictions in UK over Christmas’ A study published in BMJ by the University of Exeter and Bristol last March suggested that it was associated with a higher likelihood of hospitalizations and deaths than the original strain.
  • Beta (B.1.351): This variant was first documented in South Africa in May 2020. It is believed to spread faster than the original strain, but is not believed to be more deadly. Fewer than 1,000 confirmed and probable Covid cases in the UK have been attributed to Beta, according to government data.
  • Gamma (p.1): P.1 was first identified in Brazil in November 2020 and classified as a variant of concern in January 2021. People infected with the gamma variant “may present with cold-like symptoms more frequently than other variants,” it says a study published in the Journal of Infection in February.


In the past, other interesting but not worrying variants were Zeta, Kappa and Lambda, which accounted for a very small number of cases in the UK. There are currently no interesting variants identified by the WHO.

Should we be worried about the new Omicron variants?

That WHOThe Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said that “there is no need to worry about the emergence of the new subvariants” BA.4 and BA.5. “We are not yet seeing a major increase in cases, hospitalizations or deaths.”

WHO is urging countries to step up genomic surveillance to gain a better understanding of the new Omicron variants.

A recombinant variant — a variant that combines genetic material from several other strains — called Omicron XE has also recently emerged. As of April 5, just over 1,000 cases had been identified in the UK.

The variant has a combination of mutations from the Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 strains. “Although we don’t know much about it yet, what we know does not indicate that there is any serious concern,” said Grace C. Roberts, research associate in virology at the University of Leeds The conversation.

This variant is monitored by the WHO, among others. World Health Organization: The latest Covid variants are a cause for concern

Fry Electronics Team

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