New Covid variant explained: What is the BA.2 variant causing 50 percent of new cases?

Long Covid: Dr Sara Kayat discusses impact on children

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Covid, after a marked decline in the UK, has started making a comeback as spring rolls around. The Omicron variant remains at large despite falling off earlier this year, which the Government used to nix remaining restrictions. Case rates have rocketed again, however, with no ministerial response on the horizon as a new offshoot variant sweeps through the country.

What is the Omicron BA.2 sub-variant?

Over the last week, Covid cases have notably soared, with recent Government data showing the UK’s highest rate ever.

On March 21, officials recorded 226,524 new infections, nearly 10,000 more than the previous high of 218,724 on January 4 earlier this year.

While testing figures now include reinfections, making them higher by design, the situation is, in part, due to a new Covid sub-variant.

The sub-variant has branched off from the base Omicron strain, with scientists dubbing it BA.2.

According to health secretary Sajid Javid, the rise was part of “normal” life returning and BA.2 presenting as a more infectious strain.

The UKHSA discovered the new variant – known colloquially as Stealth Omicron – in December last year.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has labelled it a “variant under investigation”.

Stealth Omicron could be responsible for causing approximately half of all new cases detected in England.

Former World Health Organisation (WHO) professor Adrian Esterman said it has a “reproduction number” of “about 12”.

He wrote on Twitter that this brings its infectivity close to measles.

While now becoming dominant in the UK, Stealth Omicron may struggle to stay for long, as public immunity quickly foiled a previous peak in Denmark.

Will the Government bring in new Covid rules?

Most Britons have now readjusted to life outside of lockdown, with society settling back to pre-Covid patterns.

With spring now in full swing and a mini-heatwave on the way, they will want to keep their newfound freedoms for the foreseeable future.

And thankfully for them, it appears there are no plans to bring back the Covid rules that have guided policy for the last two years.

While speaking to the BBC on Monday, he confirmed that the “level of concern” amongst ministers was unchanged.

Hospital admissions, he added, remain “well below their peak” despite the surge in cases.

The latest data from March 18 shows that 14,948 people are hospitalised with Covid.

Although it hasn’t triggered alarm among ministers, the total is more than 4,000 higher than it was at the beginning of March.

On March 1, 10,865 people were receiving hospital treatment for Covid.

Deaths have risen as well, but more modestly than other categories, with a seven-day death rate of 786.

The growing rates have come as testing totals lag in the UK.

While they now include reinfections, test numbers have plateaued, with only 650,171 reported on March 20.

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