Health officials in Denmark have released information showing that the Omicron BA.2 subvariant is far more contagious than its predecessor.
Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told Reuters on Wednesday that there is no evidence that the BA.2 Omicron sub-variant causes more disease, but it must be more contagious.
Globally, the BA.1 Omicron variant presently accounts for 98% of all cases, however, in Denmark, it has been eclipsed by the BA.2 Omicron subvariant. It emerged as the dominant strain in the second week of January.
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The Health Security Agency in the UK has designated BA.2 as a variant under investigation since it could have a growth advantage.
Statens Serum Institut (SSI), Denmark’s top infectious disease agency, said in a note on Wednesday that preliminary calculations suggest the BA.2 sub-variant may also be 1.5 times more infectious than its predecessor Omicron BA.1.
An initial analysis by the institute found, however, that BA.2 was no more likely to lead to hospitalization than BA.1.
Tyra Grove Krause, SSI’s technical director, told a news briefing that there is some indication that it is more contagious, especially for people who are unvaccinated. However, it can also infect those who are vaccinated to a significant extent.
According to Krause, this means Denmark’s outbreak may reach its peak a little later than previously predicted.
There have also been BA.2 subvariant cases in Britain, Sweden, and Norway, but to a lesser degree than in Denmark.
On Wednesday, Denmark announced plans to scrap its COVID-19 restrictions by the end of February. Making it the first country in Europe to do so despite a high record of daily infection numbers.
Meanwhile, The World Health Organization has said officials should begin investigating how it differs from other pandemics to determine whether it poses new challenges.
Known as BA. 2 this new virus variant is a descendant of the omicron variant that caused large outbreaks of covid-19 in the United States and elsewhere. The original variant of omicron is known as BA.1 among virologists.