The World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Bhutan, Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus, said BA.2.75 is a newly identified sub-variant, and WHO is studying it, and they are yet to announce the correct characteristics of the new sub-variant.
“For now, WHO waits whether the sub-variant is more transmissible or will be more severe. It is not sure for now,” Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus said.
As per the experts, BA.2.75, like BA.5, is a sub variant of Omicron, a highly transmissible form of coronavirus that is becoming dominant around the world this year, despite a high level of vaccination coverage globally.
The BA.2.75 variant, nicknamed “Centaurus”, was first detected in India in early May. This is the second time a new sub-variant has been reported from India. The Delta variant of coronavirus that caused the second wave of COVID-19 was also reported in India first in 2020.
BA.2.75 cases in the UK have since risen steeply and faster than those of the extremely transmissible BA.5 variant, which is also present in India and is rapidly displacing the previously dominant BA.2 variant in many countries.
Although a lot of research is ongoing around Omicron sub-variant BA.2.75, WHO says that it is more transmissible. While it is a fast-spreading variant with many spike mutations appearing together, health experts say it is still too early to know for sure exactly how much better BA.2.75 is at evading vaccine-induced and natural immunity.
Experts say the transmission rates of the BA.2.75 variant are showing an exponential increase, particularly in India. It makes up about a quarter of the cases there and seems to be competing with BA.5 as the dominant strain. Some health officials expect cases will continue to grow, but how the sub-variant might impact remains to be seen.
BA.2.75 has been detected in about 14 other countries, including the UK, US, Australia, Germany, and Canada.
Dr Rui said during the Delta outbreak, Bhutan’s vaccination coverage was less, and in addition, the health system was also not yet ready to deal with the cases. So, to buy some time, Bhutan resorted to placing lockdown during the first outbreak of the Delta variant in the country.
However, now the situation is different, and most people are immunized and protected.
“I request everyone to stick to preventive measures that have been so far advised by the Ministry of Health and WHO,” said Dr Rui.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) designated it a “variant under monitoring” on 7 July.
WHO is also closely monitoring the new variant, although its chief scientist, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, said there were not yet enough samples to assess its severity.
Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said this is the normal process for the virus, and as the virus mutates, it becomes weaker and weaker. It is unlikely that the virus will become more lethal, as it has not happened so far.