Omicron BA.2: Everything We Know About The New COVID-19 Variant

A new subvariant of the coronavirus, Omicron BA.2, has recently emerged. Discovered in India and South Africa, this variant has since spread to several countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Israel (via Medical News Today). Although this variant is spreading quickly, current statistics have shown that it has not increased hospitalizations compared to the original Omicron subvariant, called BA.1.

Scientists are still studying Omicron BA.2 and some believe that it may be more contagious than BA.1. "This sister variant, which is still Omicron, is interesting because it seems to be displacing Omicron in certain parts of the world," said Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. "There is speculation that it may be more transmissible than its sibling." One Danish study found that BA.2 does appear to be more contagious than BA.1 after the new subvariant swept through Denmark (via Reuters). "We conclude that Omicron BA.2 is inherently substantially more transmissible than BA.1, and that it also possesses immune-evasive properties that further reduce the protective effect of vaccination against infection," said the study's researchers. However, it should be noted that the study has not yet been peer-reviewed and scientists are still analyzing the effects of BA.2 around the world.

Why this subvariant shouldn't be a cause for alarm

It is natural to feel concerned about a new variant or subvariant of COVID-19. However, many experts agree that we shouldn't panic about Omicron BA.2. This new subvariant is not likely to cause a new wave of infections that will impact hospitals, travel, and more (via New York Times). Rather, this variant may cause the Omicron surge to continue longer than previously expected. "This may mean higher peak infections in places that have yet to peak, and a slowdown in the downward trends in places that have already experienced peak Omicron," said Thomas Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London.

So far, it seems that BA.2 causes similar symptoms as the original Omicron variant, BA.1. According to NBC News, symptoms of the Omicron variant are less severe than previous variants. Symptoms include cough, fatigue, congestion, sore throat, and headache. Although vaccinated individuals can still get COVID, they will experience less severe symptoms and are at a much lower risk of hospitalization and death than unvaccinated individuals.