The number of COVID-19 cases is consistently seeing a downfall in India. But it doesn’t mean that the world is going to be free from the coronavirus. This is because coronavirus is known for its nature to easily mutate and every time it mutates, a new virus strain emerges. This is why a top World Health Organization official has said that the Omicron variant is not going to be the last one and there is a high possibility of new variants. It is known that sub-lineages of the Omicron variants caused the third wave and that is why most of us are familiar with the BA.1 and BA.2 sub-variants. However, the WHO has now said that there could now be a new Omicron sublineage called the BA 3.
All you need to know about the third variant of Omicron
During a question and answer session, that was live streamed on WHO’s social media platforms, the WHO COVID-19 Technical Lead and infectious Disease Epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said that the global health agency is tracking four different versions of Omicron. Kerkhove said that the BA.1 and BA.2 subvariant severity is similar and there is also BA.2 lineage.
“We know a lot about this virus, but we don’t know everything. And quite frankly, the variants are the wild card. So we are tracking this virus in real time as it mutates as it changes…But this virus has a lot of room to move,” she said.
“Omicron is the latest variant of concern. It will not be the last variant of concern that WHO will speak about. The next one, you know, that will come hopefully, it will take some time to get there. But with the level of intensity of spread, the possibility that we will have other variants is really high,” she said.
“So we need to ensure that we again, not only increase vaccination coverage, but we also take measures to reduce the spread,” she added.
B.1.1.529 was designated as a variant of concern on November 26, last year and since then several lineages have been identified. These include Pango lineages BA.1, BA.1.1, BA.2 and BA.3, which are all being monitored by WHO under the umbrella of ‘Omicron’.
“BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1 so we expect to see BA.2 increasing in detection around the world,” Kerkhove said.
According to the UN health agency’s weekly epidemiological report, released on Tuesday, the Omicron variant is increasingly dominant – making up nearly 97 per cent of all cases.
“The prevalence of the Omicron variant has increased globally and is now detected in almost all countries. However, many of the countries which reported an early rise in the number of cases due to the Omicron variant have now reported a decline in the total number of new cases since the beginning of January 2022,” it said.
The BA3 sublineage was first discovered in northwester South Africa. Out of the total genome sequences uploaded to the GISAID database, around 0.013 per cent were of BA.3 Omicron subvariant. According to the WHO, the BA.1 was the common among them. The study has also found that the BA.3 variant has fewer mutations compared to the BA.1.