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Omicron variant no more serious than original strain – WHO

The BA.2 variant of the Omicron coronavirus strain is no more serious than the original, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

Based on a sample of people from different countries, “we see no difference in severity of BA.1 compared to BA.2,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, a senior WHO official, said in an online question and answer session.

“So this is a similar level of severity when it comes to the risk of hospitalization. And this is really important, because they’ve had significant circulation in many countries, both of BA.1 and BA.2,” she said.

Van Kerkhove, who leads the technical side of the WHO’s Covid-19 response team, reported the findings of a committee of experts monitoring the evolution of the virus.

Their conclusions will come as a relief to countries like Denmark, where the BA.2 variant of Omicron is widespread.

The WHO said in a statement that initial data suggests the new BA2 variant “appears to be naturally more transmissible than BA.1”, and further research is underway to discover why this is the case.

“However, the worldwide circulation of all variants is reportedly declining,” it added.

The coronavirus has killed more than 5.8 million people worldwide, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources on Tuesday.

Taking into account the excess mortality from Covid-19, the WHO estimates that the true death toll could be two to three times higher.

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