Omicron variant

NICD research suggests BA.2 is nothing to worry about – Photo: Adobe Stock

‘Mutated Omicron strains’ are in South Africa – but experts aren’t worried…

You might hear a thing or two about Omicron mutations ‘becoming dominant’ in SA soon – but it’s best to listen to the professionals.

Omicron variant

NICD research suggests BA.2 is nothing to worry about – Photo: Adobe Stock

If you’re familiar with the film Inception, the concept of a ‘variant within a variant’ shouldn’t be too difficult to grasp. But, with COVID-19 infections dropping to low levels in South Africa, there’s a slight twist in the tale to report – thanks to the arrival of ‘mutated Omicron strains’ within the population.

Omicron mutations: Are they worth worrying about?

However, the last thing any of us need to do is panic. That’s the word coming from South Africa’s highly-regarded scientific community. On Wednesday, Professor Penny Moore of the NICD identified the BA.2 variant of Omicron as something she ‘was not concerned about’ – and the COVID cavalry has come to support her.

Tulio de Oliveira, one of South Africa’s top virus experts, has backed her claims to the hilt. The professor has been closely monitoring both the BA.1.1 and BA.2 strains of Omicron, which feature their own unique mutations.

Preliminary info suggests this new form of Omicron could be a bit more transmissible, but data from Denmark – where this sub-lineage has really taken off – shows very little change in their hospital numbers.

New strains ‘may become dominant’ – with little impact

But, such is the changing situation with the virus at the moment, the appearance of these ‘sub-variants’ isn’t panicking our best and brightest. In a series of Tweets posted by de Oliveira on Wednesday, he explained that the BA.2 version of Omicron is on its way to becoming dominant in some provinces.

However, what’s rather encouraging is that these new strains are associated with a decrease in infections across Mzansi – and de Oliveira is confident that there’s not a great deal to be too concerned about…

“At present BA.1.1 and BA.2, are growing in prevalence in many places in the world. In South Africa, it seems to be around 25% of the most recent samples. In some of the provinces, like KZN and Limpopo the prevalence of BA.1.1 and BA.2 reaches up around 40%. The strains were first identified in Southern Africa.”

“The increase of BA.1.1 & BA.2 is associated with a decrease in infections in SA. I request that when countries present an increase of sub-lineages of Omicron, they present with total infections as this avoid panic and put the pandemic in perspective. In SA, we are alert, but not too concerned, given the Omicron wave is decreasing fast here.”

Tulio de Oliveira