"So far, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether BA.2 causes more severe illness than omicron BA.1," said Chand.
Vaccination remains important in face of new mutations
British Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said the emergence of the new variant shows the continued importance of vaccination. "I encourage you to give yourself and your loved ones the best protection possible and get boosted now," he said.
French epidemiologist Antoine Flahault told the French news agency AFP: "What surprised us is the rapidity with which this sub-variant, which has been circulating to a great extent in Asia, has taken hold in Denmark."
So far, infections with subtype BA.2 are not more severe than with subtype BA.1.
For the moment, French Health Minister Olivier Veran is not too concerned about BA.2. "What we know for now is that [it] more or less corresponds to the characteristics that we know of omicron," he told AFP.
Scientists concerned with possible omicron-delta recombination
Speaking with Deutschlandfunk public radio, German virologist Christian Drosten of Berlin's Charite University Hospital stressed that combining one of the two omicron variants with delta could, however, lead to the development of an even more dangerous virus. Omicron has certain mutations on its surface protein, the so-called spike protein, with which it can more easily evade the body's immune defenses.
This trait could become particularly dangerous through recombination, which "carries the spike protein of the omicron virus to continue to enjoy that immune advantage, but has the rest of the genome of the delta virus," said Drosten.
This would bring the strongest features of both variants together.
"There is such a thing, it has already been described, you have to fear that something like this could happen at the moment," Drosten warned.
A researcher in Cyprus recently reported a new variant that could be a recombination of both virus variants. However, the discovery of that "deltacron-variant" has not been widely accepted. Experts say the finding could also be attributed to contamination of samples in the lab.
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