Experts warn of 'stealth Omicron' wave as 'high rate of concealment' sends shockwaves across China

Researchers informed that the variant BA.2 is called 'stealth Omicron’ because it doesn't show up on PCR tests as an S-gene target failure like Omicron does


                            Experts warn of 'stealth Omicron' wave as 'high rate of concealment' sends shockwaves across China
Experts informed that the BA.2 virus, a subvariant of the Omicron coronavirus variant, is dangerous (Getty Images)

China has begun taking strict measures as Covid cases increase in the country. It has placed the city of Shenzhen on lockdown. Jilin City was also partially shut down on Saturday, March 12, while Shanghai has moved again to online classes from the physical one.

According to reports, 588 new confirmed cases of Covid were reported by Chinese officials in the 24 hours ending on Friday, March 11, with no casualties. The Chinese special administrative region, Hong Kong, is also amid a new wave of the coronavirus as it reported 29,381 new infections and 196 deaths on Friday. The city’s leader said, “Over 90 per cent of the deaths were those who had not been fully vaccinated. We need to catch up and vaccinate every Hong Kong citizen.”

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This comes as research stated that the BA.2 virus, a subvariant of the Omicron coronavirus variant, is more dangerous than its distant cousin because it spreads faster than the other one. A CNN report in February said that “new lab experiments from Japan show that BA.2 may have features that make it as capable of causing serious illness as older variants of Covid, including Delta. And like Omicron, it appears to largely escape the immunity created by vaccines. A booster shot restores protection, making illness after infection about 74 per cent less likely.”

Workers transfer a body of a deceased person at a Mortuary on March 7, 2022, in Hong Kong (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

 

It has also been said that BA.2 cannot be treated by sotrovimab, "a monoclonal antibody that is available under emergency use authorization for the treatment of patients who are at risk for progression of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) to severe disease."

Dr Daniel Rhoads, section head of microbiology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, who also reviewed the research said, “It might be, from a human's perspective, a worse virus than BA.1 and might be able to transmit better and cause worse disease.” Kei Sato, a researcher at the University of Tokyo who carried out the research work, added, “As you may know, BA.2 is called 'stealth Omicron.’ That's because it doesn't show up on PCR tests as an S-gene target failure, the way Omicron does. Labs, therefore, have to take an extra step and sequence the virus to find this variant.”

Healthcare workers at a Covid-19 isolation facility in San Tin district on March 11, 2022, in Hong Kong (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

 

Besides, WHO also released a statement on BA.2 last month. It said, “At a global level, the proportion of reported sequences designated BA.2 has been increasing relative to BA.1 in recent weeks. BA.2 differs from BA.1 in its genetic sequence, including some amino acid differences in the spike protein and other proteins. Studies have shown that BA.2 has a growth advantage over BA.1. Studies are ongoing to understand the reasons for this growth advantage, but initial data suggest that BA.2 appears inherently more transmissible than BA.1, which currently remains the most common Omicron sublineage reported.”



 

 

And as China continues to close its several cities, American public health scientist Eric Feigl-Ding shared a tweet, “Shenzhen health official Lin Hancheng warns Sunday that this #BA2 strain is ‘highly contagious, spreads quickly and has a high degree of concealment’, leading to widespread community transmission if control measures were not strengthened soon.” 

Feigl-Ding also posted a screenshot, some of its parts said, “Due to the continued epidemic of the Omikejong variant (BA.2 evolutionary branch), the world is still at the high level of the fourth wave of the epidemic…”

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