Home South African Two new Omicron sublineages detected in SA, but it’s no cause for...

Two new Omicron sublineages detected in SA, but it’s no cause for alarm

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South African scientists have revealed that the sublineages have not caused a major spike in cases and there is no cause for alarm.

File picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)

TWO NEW Covid-19 Omicron sublineages have been identified in South Africa and account for almost half of new cases.

South African scientists have revealed that the sublineages have not caused a major spike in cases and there is no cause for alarm.

The sublineages, BA.4 and BA.5, have also been detected in Botswana, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and the UK.

Director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI), Professor Tulio de Oliveira, said despite the increase in the percentage of genomes of BA.4 and BA.5, there has not been an increase in cases, hospitalisations or deaths.

“(It’s) too early to understand how that will impact on epidemiology. No cause for alarm – especially with recent experience of BA.2 causing a prolongation of wave but not a major spike in cases, admissions or deaths in SA,” he said in a series of tweets.

Speaking to Independent Media, infectious diseases expert at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) Dr Richard Lessells said it is normal for Covid-19 variants to have multiple different sublineages.

“Delta now has 133 sublineages (AY.1 to AY.133) according to the same definitions. So we do fully expect to see more Omicron sublineages over time,” he said.

There are only a few differences in the genetic code between the new sublineages and the others, which include BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3, said Lessells. This is why it is expected that all of the sublineages will have similar properties.

“We are still learning how this virus evolves, and particularly how the variants of concern like Omicron emerge,” he said.

Responding to questions about the next potential Covid-19 variant, Lessells said that people can be reassured that South Africa has strong systems in place to track the changes in the virus and to identify new variants that do emerge.

“Predicting when and where the next variant of concern may emerge is not very sensible, and just tends to keep us in the perpetual cycle of worrying about what’s coming next. So the public should not be concerned. What’s most important is for people to be up-to-date with vaccination so that they protect themselves and those around them.”

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