The Omicron BA. 2 subvariant of the coronavirus could be more
transmissible than even the Omicron variant with the subvariant having spread
to at least 57 countries, according to the World Health Organization. The
UN-backed health agency said the BA.2 variant forms over half of all Omicron
On Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said,
“It’s premature for any country either to surrender or to declare victory. This
virus is dangerous, and it continues to evolve before our very eyes. WHO is
currently tracking four sub-lineages of the Omicron variant, including BA.2.”
Concerns over the Omicron BA.2 variant emerged after early
reports indicated that the variant is more transmissible than the initial BA.2
variant. Since then, the BA.2 has spread to Europe and Asia. A Danish study
found that the BA.2 variant may effectively escape vaccine protection.
The Omicron variant, first discovered in South Africa, spread across
the world at breakneck speed at the very time countries were finally opening
borders after suffering the Delta variant. Amid hopes of bouncing back from the
now two-year-long pandemic, the discovery and spread of the Omicron variant led
to a re-imposition of curbs.
However, the silver lining in case of Omicron, a variant that
has often escaped vaccine protection, has been that it caused a disease of much
lower severity than the previous variants. Death rates and hospitalisations have
remained low despite the variant’s burgeoning spread.
The World Health Organization, however, continues to advise
caution. Maria Van Kerkhove, one of the top experts on COVID-19 with the
agency, said regardless of strain, COVID-19 is a dangerous disease and people
should avoid catching it.
Kerkhove’s note of caution
comes at a time governments are quickly giving up on few remaining pandemic
curbs. Australia, for example, has taken what critics have called a “let it rip”
approach, where all curbs have been lifted in the hope that sufficient disease
spread will lead to some form of herd immunity.