Three new sub-variants of Omicron could be causing a new wave of Covid-19 in the UK. Here’s everything we know so far about the new variants and how they could affect us
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Official figures have shown that both cases and hospital admissions are rising rapidly.
According to the latest data from the ONS, infections in the UK are growing by 43% on a week-by-week basis.
Experts believe the three new sub-variants that have recently been discovered are to blame for the increasing number of cases.
The World Health Organisation has been researching how they could affect us as initial research suggests they could be more infectious and better at getting around the immune system.
Here’s everything you need to know about what the new Omicron sub-variants are and the symptoms to look out for.
What are the new Omicron sub-variants?
The three new Omicron sub-variants are known as BA.4, BA.5 and BA.2.12.1.
Scientists in South Africa were the first to identify the new BA.4 and BA.5 variants in January and February of this year.
Both the BA.4 and BA.5 variants have now been identified among cases in the UK and several other countries.
Meanwhile, the BA.2.12.1 was discovered by scientists in the US in April and is thought to have evolved from the earlier BA.2 variant.
Experts believe that all three of the new variants could be to blame for a current new wave of Covid in the UK.
What are the symptoms of the new Omicron variants?
The new variants are all similar to the earlier BA.2 variant of Omicron, which is the one that is currently dominant in the UK, but they each have a similar mutation that distinguishes them from the older versions of Omicron.
Preliminary data from Professor Kei Sato of the University of Tokyo has suggested that the new variants may have evolved to target the lungs.
Sato said: “Altogether, our investigations suggest that the risk of [these] Omicron variants, particularly BA.4 and BA.5, to global health is potentially greater than that of original BA.2.”
Experts also believe that the new variants could be better at bypassing the immune system, meaning that people who have already had an Omicron variant of Covid could still be at risk of getting it again.
Although initial research is starting to show how the new variants could affect us differently, we don’t yet know whether the symptoms differ from other Omicron variants.
Some symptoms of Omicron to look out for include:
- Persistent cough
- Runny nose
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat