No sign that Omicron subvariant very different from original strain

South Africa is seeing more cases of the BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron coronavirus variant and is monitoring it, but there is no clear sign that BA.2 is substantially different from the original Omicron strain, Reuters cited a senior scientist as saying on Friday.

Michelle Groome, from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, showed in a presentation that BA.2 accounted for 23% of the 450 samples from January sequenced by South Africa's genomic surveillance network and the original strain 75%.

Of the 2,243 samples from December that were sequenced, BA.2 accounted for 4% and the original strain 94%.

At this stage, there is no indication that there would be ... differences between these different sub-lineages of Omicron,

she said.

"As we saw with Delta there were lots of lineages and we didn't see a lot of difference between them, but we will keep monitoring," she added.

Asked whether there were signs BA.2 was causing different symptoms, she said she was not expecting marked changes. Scientists will analyse hospitalisation data for clues about the severity of illness linked to the sub-variant, said Groome.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the country was not out of the fourth wave and there could be a fifth wave closer to winter. He said the past two weeks had been a bit of a "stalemate" in terms of new cases.

Cover photo: Getty Images

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