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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Concern over new Omicron mutation discovered in Hong Kong

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr/Prachatai

A leading health expert in Thailand has expressed concern about a new Omicron sub-variant that has surfaced in Hong Kong.

Dr Chalermchai Boonyaleephan, the vice chair of the Public Health Commission, says Omicron has now mutated into 3 sub-variants, the latest being the BA.2.2 mutation reported in Hong Kong. The territory is currently experiencing its worst Covid-19 wave to date, with the world’s highest fatality rate, particularly among care home residents and the unvaccinated population.

He’s also called on the Thai government to screen arrivals from Britain and Hong Kong for the Omicron BA.2.2 subvariant, according to Nation Thailand.

Chalermchai says that when the infection rate is very high, such as in Hong Kong at the moment, this makes “mutation of the virus more likely”.

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He claims in his post that the number of infections and deaths in Hong Kong coincides with the emergence of the BA.2.2 subvariant.The data shows that there are currently about 5,000 infections and 30 deaths per million people in Hong Kong each week. That figure is much higher than Thailand’s average 315 cases and 0.85 deaths, per million, per week.

According to a recent Reuters report, government data shows that only around 53% of people over the age of 80 are vaccinated. Some say the government’s focus on testing the elderly population instead of vaccinating them has partly contributed to the crisis it now has on its hands.

However, when it comes to the reported mutation, the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data has not yet confirmed BA.2.2 as a new variant, or credited it with the increase in deaths in Hong Kong. Supakit Sirilak from Thailand’s Department of Medical Sciences says confirming a new variant is a process that takes time and that the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data is acting swiftly to gain more data.

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GISAID previously confirmed the existence of the so-called Deltracron variant, first reported in Cyprus. However, it emerged shortly after that the theory that the Omicron variant and Delta variant had merged to create a new mutation was incorrect. Supakit says GISAID has taken a more cautious approach to confirming the existence of new variants since.

The organisation has so far confirmed the existence of 5 variants of Covid-19. Of those, Omicron currently accounts for 90% of new infections.

“Currently, GISAID has not accepted it. (BA.2.2) has only been referred to as such among Hong Kong scientists. Actually, another variant named BA.2.3 is found in the Philippines and is much more common than BA.2.2. To declare a new variant, the process takes time and needs to meet a set of criteria – the rate at which it spreads, its severity, and its ability to evade immunity.”

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Dr. Chalermchai also confirmed that there has been no Omicron BA.2.2 infections discovered in Thailand at this time.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | Nation Thailand

 

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