Coronavirus Omicron is believed to be the most infectious yet because it binds better to human receptors than Delta. Photograph:( AFP )
UKHSA has also indicated the latest variant has been detected in some 40 other countries, which is resulting in the rise in the number of recent cases
Health experts and scientists are probing a recently-discovered Omicron's sub-variant of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to determine the potential impact and study how it could affect future pandemic spread.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has termed the Omicron BA.2 as a "variant under investigation" after the emergence of cases said to be caused by the sub-variant.
As per the latest information, more than 400 cases of the Omicron sub-variant have been identified in England, initial data suggests that the sub-variant is spreading relatively faster. So far, 426 infections have been confirmed as per reports on Sunday evening.
UKHSA has also indicated the latest variant has been detected in some 40 other countries, which is resulting in the rise in the number of recent cases. The health body said the sub-variant has spread in nations including India, Denmark and Sweden.
Omicron sub-variant in India
Weighing in on the recent trend, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) talked about Omicron cases in the country in its latest bulletin.
INSACOG said while most Omicron cases in the country so far have been asymptomatic or mild, hospitalisations and ICU cases have increased in the current wave. The body also said that the threat level remains unchanged.
"Omicron is now in community transmission in India and has become dominant in multiple metros, where new cases have been rising exponentially," INSACOG.
On the sub-variant, INSACOG said, "BA.2 lineage is in a substantial fraction in India and S gene dropout based screening is thus likely to give high false negatives."
"The recently reported B.1.640.2 lineage is being monitored. There is no evidence of rapid spread and while it has features of immune escape, it is currently not a variant of concern. So far, no case has been detected in India," the INSACOG said.
Health experts are probing
Scientists must evaluate how the virus continues to evolve and mutate. Its latest incarnation does not possess the specific mutation used to track and compare BA.1 against Delta, the previously dominant strain.
"What surprised us is the rapidity with which this sub-variant, which has been circulating to a great extent in Asia, has taken hold in Denmark," French epidemiologist Antoine Flahault told AFP.
"(France) expected a spike in contaminations in mid-January: It didn't happen and perhaps that is due to this sub-variant, which seems very transmissible but not more virulent" than BA.1, he observed.
"What interests us is if this (sub-variant) possesses different characteristics" from BA.1 in terms of contagiousness and severity, France's public health agency said Friday.
WATCH | New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern cancels her wedding as COVID cases rise due to Omicron
(With inputs from agencies)