UK classifies two types of the Omicron variants of Covid as variants of concern

The United Kingdom has classified two types of Omicron variant — BA.4 and BA.5 — of coronavirus (COVID-19) as variants of concern, an announcement on Friday (May 20) revealed. Notably, only a fewer cases of these two types of variants have been identified in the country so far. 

However, data by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) indicates that the mentioned Omicron variants are likely to have a “growth advantage” over the current dominant variant. 

A total of 115 cases of confirmed (or probable) BA.4 have been identified in the UK as of May 20. The cases were detected in England (67), Scotland (41), Wales (6) and Northern Ireland (1). 

On the other hand, a total of 80 cases of BA.5 have been identified so far in England (48), Scotland (25), Northern Ireland (6) and Wales (1). 

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As quoted by Evening Standard, Dr Meera Chand, who is the UKHSA director of clinical and emerging infections, said: “The reclassification of these variants as variants of concern reflects emerging evidence on the growth of BA.4 and BA.5 internationally and in the UK.” 

“Whilst the impact of these variants is uncertain, the variant classification system aims to identify potential risk as early as possible. UKHSA is undertaking further detailed studies. Data and analysis will be released in due course through our regular surveillance reporting,” she added. 

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Meanwhile, vaccine advisers in Britain recently told that an anticipated autumn Covid booster campaign would be aimed at people aged over 65. Frontline health workers, social care workers, care home residents and all adults in a clinical risk group are included. 

“The JCVI’s [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] current view is that in autumn 2022, a COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to: Residents in a care home for older adults and staff; Frontline health and social care workers; All those 65 years of age and over; Adults aged 16 to 64 years who are in a clinical risk group,” UKHSA said in a statement. 


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