COVID-19: Omicron sub-variant more transmissible, not more severe

The next major COVID-19 variant will be more contagious than Omicron, but not necessarily more severe.

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (purple) infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (yellow), also known as novel coronavirus, isolated from a patient sample. (photo credit: NIH/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (purple) infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (yellow), also known as novel coronavirus, isolated from a patient sample.
(photo credit: NIH/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

The Omicron coronavirus sub-variant BA.2 may be as much as 1.5 times more transmissible than the original Omicron variant, designated BA.1, according to data from Statens Serum Institut, Denmark's infectious disease surveillance body.

However, despite this, the new subvariant does not appear to be significantly more severe than the original strain. In fact, it is not even considered a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO), though the UK has begun investigating it.

According to the UK Health Security Agency, the BA.2 subvariant has a growth advantage over Omicron and has spread faster. However, vaccines remain as effective as the original strain.

The Omicron variant is one of the most transmissible and infectious diseases around, arguably ranking up there with Measles in terms of how quickly and effectively it can spread. This is despite not causing as severe of a case of COVID-19 as the Delta variant.

However, it can get worse. 

 People pose with syringe with needle in front of displayed words ''OMICRON SARS-COV-2'' in this illustration taken, December 11, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO) People pose with syringe with needle in front of displayed words ''OMICRON SARS-COV-2'' in this illustration taken, December 11, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)

According to the WHO's COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove, the next COVID-19 variant to emerge will be more contagious than Omicron. This is purely a logical and practical factor, though.

"What we mean by that is it will be more transmissible because it will have to overtake what is currently circulating," Van Kerkhove explained last Tuesday, according to CBNC.  

“The big question is whether or not future variants will be more or less severe.”

The BA.2 subvariant has currently spread to many countries around the world, with the most being in Denmark, India, the UK, Sweden and Singapore. 

Cases have also been discovered in Israel.