More than 400 cases of a new Covid-19 sub-variant have been identified in the UK, as health chiefs describe it as a 'variant under investigation'.
Authorities have confirmed that 426 cases of the variant, entitled Omicron BA.2, have been confirmed by Whole Genome Sequencing in England, with the earliest infection dated December 6.
The hotspots with the largest number of confirmed cases are in London, with 146, and the South East, with 97.
Early analysis suggests that the variant could spread faster than the current dominant Omicron strain, but experts stress that there is little certainty about this, as reported by The Mirror.
More research is being carried out on the sub-variant, about which little is known at this stage.
It is not known where BA.2 first originated. So far 40 countries have uploaded a total of 8,040 BA.2 sequences since mid-November.
The first sequences were submitted from the Philippines and the highest number of samples have been uploaded from Denmark, where 6,411 cases have been found.
Other countries that have uploaded more than 100 samples are India (530), Sweden (181), and Singapore (127).
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says the emergence of new mutations is not unexpected.
Dr Meera Chand, Covid-19 Incident Director at UKHSA, said: “It is the nature of viruses to evolve and mutate, so it’s to be expected that we will continue to see new variants emerge as the pandemic goes on.
"Our continued genomic surveillance allows us to detect them and assess whether they are significant.
"So far there is insufficient evidence to determine whether BA.2 causes more severe illness than Omicron BA.1, but data is limited and UKHSA continues to investigate.
“Case rates remain high throughout the UK and we must
In its latest snapshot of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday said cases last week rose 55% over the previous week, up in nearly all parts of the world and highest in the region that includes India.
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