BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron: How worried should we be?

Posted: June 20th 2022


I have noticed an increase in the prudent practice of people wearing face masks. There are obvious risks and challenges for dwellers associated with the two variants behind this summer surge. I do worry about our winter holds and wonder whether we have eased off everything too soon….???

Two new fast-spreading subvariants of Omicron are causing fresh surges of Covid around the world. BA.4 and BA.5 were first identified in South Africa and may soon become the dominant strains in Europe and the US, health experts say.Ever since it first emerged, Covid has been mutating or shape-shifting. The new genetic versions that keep appearing are called variants.

There have been a few major variants already, such as alpha and delta, that have caused massive waves of infection.The latest ones experts are concerned about - BA.4 and BA.5 - are very closely related to the Omicron variant behind last winter's wave.They were added to the World Health Organization's monitoring list in March and have also been designated as variants of concern in Europe.

They were spotted circulating in South Africa at the beginning of the year and now appear to be spreading much more quickly than other variants. Most European countries now have them and they look set to overtake other types of Covid soon. That's already happened in Portugal - BA.5 is now dominant there.In the US, officials say they are seeing rising numbers of infections caused by the two new subvariants.

Covid infections in the UK are also showing early signs of a possible rise, driven by BA.4 and BA.5. Australia has reported cases too. Experts are unsure how hard countries will be hit. BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron are not thought to be any more lethal than other types of Covid.

Lots of people have built up some immunity from past infections and vaccination, which is helping to make the disease less risky overall. But the new subvariants do appear to be spreading more easily. This is partly because immunity may be waning, but also because of the mutations the virus has undergone.

Many countries have also lifted their Covid restrictions, meaning people are mixing more, which gives the virus more chances to spread. BA.4 and BA.5 appear to be able to infect people even if they've recently had other types of Omicron. A wave of new infections could lead to more hospitalisations and some more deaths.