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An initial analysis by the UN health agency shows that BA.2 is a little more infectious than the first version of Omicron.
57 countries have been confirmed to be infected with a subvariant of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus strain, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
On Tuesday, the United Nations’ health agency published its weekly epidemiological update, noting that in a handful of countries the sub-variant accounts for more than half of all sequenced Omicron cases.
The article noted there was still a great deal of uncertainty regarding the differences between the two sub-variants, however, several studies had suggested that BA.2, or the “stealth variant”, was more infectious than the original sub-lineage.
An epidemiologist who is the WHO’s lead on the Coronavirus pandemic, Maria Van Kerkhove, told reporters that preliminary data showed BA.2 had “a slight increase in growth rate over BA.1”, the first version of the Omicron variant.
In the BA.2 subvariant, Van Kerkhove said there is “no evidence that the severity has changed.”
The highly transmissible BA.2 variant is generally known to cause less severe diseases than previous variants such as the Delta.
The WHO said that Omicron, which accounts for more than 93 percent of all coronavirus specimens collected in the past month, is divided into four sub-lineages. These are BA.1, BA.1.1, BA.2 and BA.3.
More than 96 percent of the Omicron cases submitted to GISAID, the public virus tracking repository, indicate that the first two versions of the virus have been identified as BA.1 and BA.1.1, the organization added.
Despite this, the agency stated that in some parts of Europe and Asia, BA.2 has begun to spread faster than BA.1.