British health officials are currently monitoring a “stealth” version of Omicron, amid concerns that it could have reached more than 1000 people. 

According to the UK Health Security Agency, BA.2 has been identified as a ‘variant currently under investigation’.

This group is for those variants which are rapidly spreading across the UK. These strains are most likely to be more transmissible or better equipped to resist vaccines than any other mutant strains.

One offshoot from Delta (AY.4.2), that was somewhat more contagious than its parent strain last year, is on the same list as the ‘Mu” variant.

This is one step above a “variant of concern”, such as Omicron and Delta, but it is only for mutant strains which could alter the course of the pandemic.

There have been 78 confirmed cases in the UK, however only about a quarter of the infections are being tested for variants. This means that the real number could rise to close to 1,000.

This variant has the same mutations that Omicron and others which make it more difficult to distinguish from other variants by standard PCR testing.

Although scientists believe it may be more transmissible that Omicron in the early stages, there are no evidence to support it being more dangerous.

Doctor Tom Peacock was among the scientists who raised the alarm about Omicron. He poured cold water on concerns over BA.2, saying that it would not have any’substantial effect’ on this wave. 

He warned that it could replace Omicron in the months ahead, as it seemed slightly less transmissible.

Globally, there have been around 8,000 confirmed cases. The predominant strain is found in India and parts of the Philippines. Infections with BA.2 are on the rise in Germany, Denmark, and the UK.

Pictured above are the areas with the most BA.2 cases over the week to January 1

And these are the areas with BA.2 cases over the week to January 8

The above figures — from the UK’s largest Covid surveillance centre — show the locations where BA.2 has been detected in the UK

Pictured above are all the countries where BA.2 has been spotted. Cases are growing in Denmark, Germany and the UK, and it is already dominant in parts of India and the Phillipines

Below are the locations where BA.2 was detected. It is growing in Germany, Denmark and the UK. In parts of India, it is also dominant.

Pictured above is the estimated number of BA.2 cases in the UK according to one of Britain's largest Covid surveillance centres, the Sanger Institute. The UK is currently only checking about 10 per cent of infections for variants because of the large outbreak

The number of BA.2 infections in Britain, as estimated by one of Britain’s most important Covid surveillance centers, the Sanger Institute is shown above. Due to the outbreak, only 10% of variants are being checked in the UK.

UKHSA tweeted that they have classified BA.2 as a variant in investigation, but it was quickly deleted.

It has yet to issue its weekly technical briefing about the situation in the UK variants.

Dr Peacock of Imperial College London stated that it would surprise if BA.2 produced a second wave. Although this has slightly greater transmissibility, it is unlikely to cause a Delta-to Omicron shift. Instead, it is more likely that the change will be slow and subtler.

“That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see BA.2 gradually replace (Omicron), over the next months with slightly more “optimised”, mutations. 

What is known about BA.2 Do we need to be worried?

What exactly is BA.2 and how does it work?

This is an offshoot from the Omicron family.

This mutation is identical to its parent’s, but it also contains a variation that can be difficult to identify using PCR tests.

Omicron’s disease has been very easy to identify because of its S gene dropout, unlike Delta. This means that it can easily be detected on PCR tests. 

BA.2 is different.

Are they more dangerous?

An early analysis has shown that this subvariant may be slightly less transmissible than Omicron.

Scientists say it is the predominant strain in India and the Philippines. There are also increasing cases in Germany, the UK and Denmark.

However, there are no indications that it would be more likely to lead to serious diseases.

Are you concerned?

One of the original scientists who warned the world about Omicron was Dr Tom Peacock. He says that there’s no need to worry too much.

Expert at Imperial College London said that he believes the variant won’t have any’substantial effect’ on the current wave.

Francois Ballous is a geneticist from Imperial College London and says that people should not be obsessed by Covid. He suggests treating it the same way as Omicron. 

He stated that early observation from India and Denmark suggests there is not a dramatic difference between Omicron’s severity.

“These data must become stable, one way or the other, within the next weeks.

I would agree there are likely to be very little differences in the effectiveness of vaccines against Omicron (BA) and BA. It is highly likely.

Francois Balloux is a University College London geneticist who said that he wouldn’t treat BA.2 apart from Omicron.

I recommend that anyone who is not obsessive about (Covid variant minutiae) be open to considering both “Omicron” unless there was evidence of a significant (disease difference) between them. 

While information is still emerging, one key difference of the Omicron-like lineage is that it can’t be detected almost immediately.

The S gene dropout is a characteristic of Omicron original Omicron. This means that it can be detected by PCR instead of more difficult lab analysis.

BA.2 is not affected by the S gene dropout and this makes it difficult to identify an outbreak.

On December 13, the first UK case was discovered. 

Another 52 infections were detected since then, though it’s likely that there are more.

Because of the outbreak’s size, Britain currently checks only 10% of cases of Covid variants. 

UKHSA Director Dr Meera Chand stated that an altered Omicron form was not surprising, as viruses evolve and change constantly.

She stated, “Our continuous surveillance allows us detect them and determine if they are significant.”

SAGE scientists believe that Omicron will soon be replaced by a more transmittable variant.

Many people expect that the virus will mutate and become more transmittable, but less likely to cause serious disease.

This was possible because of the Back-to School effect, as Covid surveillance has shown that primary school children are experiencing an increase in cases.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 8 percent of young children between the ages of 2 and 11 were found to have Covid during the week that ended January 15, which is roughly one in 13 compared to the previous week’s 7 percentage.

Based on 160,000 people in the country who gave their swabs, the rate is highest. Twenty-four-year-olds have the second highest rate at one-in-17.

While the rates of this disease are declining or falling in all age groups, they continue to rise in children. A month ago, the virus was only found in five percent of children under twelve years old.

The children were able to return to class on January 4, after two weeks of holiday break.

Despite rising infection rates among nursery-aged and primary school children, Omicron found that there were fewer infections across England than expected.

The number of people infected in week ending January 15th was estimated at 2.9 million, a welcome decrease from the record-breaking 3.7m in week prior.

The ONS survey, which uses random sampling of approximately 100,000 people to determine the outbreak in the UK, is considered the most reliable. It does not rely on anyone coming forward for testing.