Omicron’s sub-lineage BA.2 in the country: Covid-19 Experts

The BA.2 variants are considered two times more transmissible than the Omicron variants

The country’s Covid-19 experts have confirmed the presence of the Omicron’s sub-lineage BA.2 in the country, which is a sub-variant of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus strain and considered even more infectious than the original version. 

National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) member and the head of the Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC), Dr. Sonam Wangchuk said this fast-spreading and heavily mutated Omicron variant has also rapidly become the dominant variant worldwide.

“With the higher transmissibility of the BA.2 than Omicron variants, we are worried because of the upsurge in cases in the country and around 129,000 children below the age of 11 years in the country being unvaccinated,” he said.

He said that the BA.2 variants are two times more transmissible than the Omicron variants and there has been a clear rise in cases involving the BA.2, which counts several different changes from the original ones.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in its weekly epidemiological update, the Omicron variant, which accounts for over 93% of all coronavirus specimens collected in the past month, counts several sub-lineages: BA.1, BA.1.1, BA.2 and BA.3.

The Omicron in general is known to cause less severe disease than the previous coronavirus variants like Delta, Dr. Sonam Wangchuk said, adding that there was no indication so far that there is a change in severity in the BA.2 sub-variant.

He added that regardless of the strain, Covid still remains a dangerous disease and that people should strive to avoid catching it.

“We need people to be aware that this virus is continuing to circulate and is continuing to evolve,” he said, adding that measures must be taken to reduce exposure to this virus, whichever variant is circulating.

With the four weeks of lockdown, he added that different districts are now in transition from yellow to green zones.

According to Dr. Sonam Wangchuk, the team is doing a lot of mass testing and it has been seen that cases are picking up these days.

“Although the numbers of cases are quite high, if we are analyzing the positive cases looking into the laboratory results, almost 50% must have been either recovered. This indicates that now the disease is slowly dying in the population.”

He said that although the health ministry is reporting a high number of cases from their assessments now, they are seeing a decline in cases so people should not really be worried about the cases that the ministry is updating on a daily basis.

“As of now, we are looking at all the districts that are badly affected except Samtse and Samdrup Jongkhar. There are some active transmissions that are happening in the community other than those other red areas mostly in Wangdue, it is now declining,” he said.

Dr. Sonam Wangchuk shared that they are doing centromere testing and not many cases are coming up; so the virus is dying in the community.

“I wanted to reiterate that the public should not get confused that despite the lockdown every day we are seeing an increase in cases because we are doing lots of mass testing and there is an increase in positive cases,” he said. 

He added, “As per our analyses of the result almost more than 50% are already recovered.”

The number of positive cases increasing doesn’t mean that lots of infections are going and cases are increasing, according to Dr. Sonam Wangchuk. 

Another member of the NITAG, Dr Tshokey said that once people get infected, there is a cause of infection based on the virus and some will take a longer period to infect and different viruses have their own period of infection.

“Regarding the Omicron, if you get infected today, it infects one for a maximum of ten days and after that though we are detecting being positive with the RT-PCR with death virus, you are not virus infectious,” he said.

As the positive cases among others are all targeted based on these findings, Dr Tshokey said, “That’s why if we collect the samples and keep on testing, we often try to analyze the tests, and most viruses are dead.”

“When we send people after ten days from isolation facilities, we think people should not be worried and concerned so that people should not stigmatize those people who are coming back to their homes,” he added.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu