Health Minister confirms Omicron BA2 as Covid-second wave
THE Covid-19 variant that is circulating in the country and termed as ‘second wave’ has been confirmed to be Omicron BA2.
Health Minister, Dr Culwick Togamana made the confirmation in his special nationwide address last night.
After the decrease in the number of the Covid-19 cases in Honiara in March, the city has detected a resurgence of Covid cases on 13th April 2022.
A number of swab samples were then collected. According to the minister, samples were sent to Australia in the passing weeks for genome sequencing, to determine the type of variant.
Determining variants is critical for health to enable adjustments to its response for effectiveness and efficiency, said Dr Culwick.
The results from 37 samples were returned yesterday, with 33 were Omicron BA2 and 4 were Delta.
“I hereby officially announce to all of us that genome sequencing has detected the Omicron variant, specifically its B2 sub-variant as the new variant that is in transmission in the country and has been the cause for the 2nd wave of COVID-19 infection,” said the Minister.
He added that there is evidence that Omicron BA 2 variant was in circulation on April 6 and is now the primary driver of the COVID-19 situation in Honiara.
“This result is consistent with my ministry’s suspicion and expectation of the result outcome,” he stated.
Omicron was first identified in mid-November 2021. The World Health Organization rapidly classified Omicron as a variant of concern due to the large number of mutations it contains.
The Omicron variant has spread worldwide rapidly and is now the major variant in many countries. Omicron is much more transmissible than previous variants of the COVID-19 virus, including Delta.
Omicron, like other variants, continues to change and there are now two main sub-variants – BA.1 and BA.2. The BA.2 sub-variant is more dominant in Australia, USA and New Zealand.
The Minister said, it is more important for people to note that this Omicron BA 2 is more highly infectious than its predecessor (the original Omicron) meaning it can spread very rapidly from one person to another.
“The BA.2 sub-variant is also more infectious than the BA.1 sub-variant and is contributing to the increase in the number of cases,” Dr Culwick said.
He further stated that Omicron has resulted in many more people being hospitalized than at any other time in the pandemic.
“This is not because Omicron is very severe but because Omicron can cause so many infections over a short period of time.
“Omicron can still cause severe illness and even death, especially in people who are at risk of severe outcomes, such as elderly and those with severe underlying health conditions.
“However, a smaller proportion of people who are infected with Omicron need to go to hospital compared to people infected with Delta,” he said.
Compared to the Delta variant that had been the cause of the 1st wave, it is less deadly than Delta, the minister said.
“This means while many people can easily get infected with it, not many will be hospitalized or die from it. Many will return to negative more, especially those vaccinated and recover from COVID-19 symptoms.”