A NEW strain of coronavirus which is a sub-variant of Omicron is under investigation by scientists in the UK. 

Known as 'BA.2', the proportion of cases is currently low but increasing numbers have been identified both domestically and internationally.

The  UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said there is still uncertainty around the significance of the changes to the viral genome, and further analyses will now be undertaken.

READ MORE: UK Government monitoring new 'BA.2' variant of Omicron - what we know

So how many cases have been identified so far?

To date, there have been 426 cases of Omicron BA.2 confirmed in the UK with the earliest dated December 6.

The areas with the largest number of confirmed cases are London with 146 and the South East of England, totalling 97.

Data for the devolved administrations including Scotland is expected to follow in due course.

How many cases have been confirmed worldwide?

Altogether, 40 countries have uploaded 8,040 BA.2 sequences to a local database since November 17.

Experts have yet to determine where the sublineage may have originated.

However, the first sequences were submitted from the Philippines, and most samples have been uploaded from Denmark - 6,411.

Other countries that have uploaded more than 100 samples are India with 530, Sweden with 181, and Singapore totalling 127.

Early analyses suggest an increased growth rate compared to the dominant variant BA.1, but further analysis is needed.


Dr Meera Chand, COVID-19 Incident Director at UKHSA, said: "It is the nature of viruses to evolve and mutate, so it’s to be expected that we will continue to see new variants emerge as the pandemic goes on. Our continued genomic surveillance allows us to detect them and assess whether they are significant.

"So far, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether BA.2 causes more severe illness than Omicron BA.1, but data is limited and UKHSA continues to investigate.

"Case rates remain high throughout the UK and we must remain vigilant and take up vaccinations. We should all continue to test regularly with LFDs and take a PCR test if symptoms develop."

UKHSA will continue to monitor this situation closely and recommend appropriate public health measures if needed.