Canberra, Jan 31: The more infectious BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron coronavirus strain that was first detected in Australia’s state of Queensland in December might soon become dominant in the country, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said Monday.
“It may be becoming the dominant subvariant of Omicron,” Kidd told a press conference in Canberra, citing findings made in Denmark and other countries. He said if BA.2 is shown to have more distinct clinical characteristics, then the World Health Organization (WHO) may recognize it as a variant of its own, Kidd said, but refrained from speculating on the matter.
It is unknown yet if the BA.2 subvariant can cause more severe course of the disease or reduce efficacy of vaccines against COVID-19, the expert stressed, adding that UK health officials believe that the BA.2 subvariant has a “growth advantage” over all the other Omicron subvariants. In Australia, BA.2 was nicknamed “stealth subvariant” due to mutations in its genetic code that hindered its initial identification as a strain of Omicron, the ABC broadcaster reported.
In late December, Australia reported its first death from Omicron in the state of New South Wales. The man had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and had underlying health conditions. Earlier in the month, WHO regional director for Europe Hans Kluge predicts that over 50 per cent of the European population would catch Omicron in the next few weeks. The Omicron coronavirus strain was first identified in South Africa in November 2021.