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Sub-variant of Omicron spreading even faster found in 57 countries

Geneva: A sub-variant of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus strain, which some studies indicate could be even more infectious than the original version, has been detected in 57 countries, WHO said on Tuesday.

The fast-spreading and heavily mutated Omicron variant has rapidly become the dominant variant worldwide since it was first detected in southern Africa 10 weeks ago.

The findings cast doubt on hopes that the wave of the virus that’s sweeping the world may help hasten the end of the pandemic. Governments are being urged to treat it as endemic like influenza, as people grow tired of pandemic restrictions, vaccines become more accessible and deaths remain relatively low.

In its weekly epidemiological update, the World Health Organization said that the variant, which accounts for over 93 percent of all coronavirus specimens collected in the past month, counts several sub-lineages: BA.1, BA.1.1, BA.2 and BA.3.

While BA.1 is still the most dominant type worldwide, recent trends suggest BA.2 is increasing in some countries including India, South Africa and Denmark, the World Health Organisation said.

The BA.1 and BA.1.1 — the first versions identified — still account for over 96 percent of all the Omicron sequences uploaded to the GISAID global science initiative, it said. Though, several recent studies have hinted that BA.2 is more infectious than the original Omicron.

The UN health agency said little was known yet about the differences between the sub-variants, and called for studies into its characteristics, including its transmissibility, how good it is at dodging immune protections and its virulence.

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