The BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron coronavirus variant, which is prominent in Denmark, looks to be more infectious than the more widespread BA.1 sub-lineage, according to Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke in a nationwide speech on Wednesday.
“There’s no indication that the BA.2 mutation causes more sickness, but it has to be more infectious,” Heunicke said at a press briefing.
The BA.1 lineage presently accounts for 98 percent of all cases worldwide, but in Denmark, BA.2, which became the dominant strain in the second week of January, has pushed it aside.
BA.2 has been recognized as a variety under examination by the UK Health Security Agency, with the possibility of a growth advantage.
Preliminary calculations suggest BA.2 could be 1.5 times more infectious than BA.1, Denmark’s top infectious disease authority, Statens Serum Institut (SSI), said in a note on Wednesday.
However, an initial analysis by the institute showed no difference in the risk of hospitalization for BA.2 compared to BA.1.
“There is some indication that it is more contagious, especially for the unvaccinated, but that it can also infect people who have been vaccinated to a greater extent,” SSI’s technical director Tyra Grove Krause said at the briefing.
This could mean the peak of Denmark’s epidemic will extend a bit further into February than previously forecast, Krause said.
BA.2 cases have also been registered in Britain, Sweden and Norway, but to a much lesser extent than in Denmark.
Denmark on Wednesday announced plans to scrap the last of its COVID-19 restrictions by Feb 1, the latest country in Europe to do so despite record high daily infection numbers.