While several nations are facing a spike in the number of daily Covid-19 cases accelerated by the emergence of the more-transmissible BA.2 omicron strain, two new sub-variants of Omicron - BA.4 and BA.5 - are now under WHO.
The global health body is monitoring whether they are more infectious or dangerous, Reuters reported.
The World Health Organisation said on Monday "We are tracking a few dozen cases of two new sub-variants of the highly transmissible Omicron strain. We are already tracking BA.1 and BA.2 - now globally dominant - as well as BA.1.1 and BA.3," the World Health Organisation said on Monday as per news agency Reuters.
Here's what we know so far about the two new variants
What are BA.4 and BA.5 variants
The BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are sister variants of the original BA.1 Omicron variant. The BA.1 and BA.2 variants already dominate the global surge. The Omicron subvariant BA.2 now represents nearly 94% of all sequenced cases
How fast do these variants spread
Viruses mutate all the time but only some mutations affect their ability to spread. The global health body WHO said it had begun tracking the BA.4 and BA.5 variants because of their 'additional mutations' to determine their transmissibility.
3How severe are BA.4 and BA.5 variants
The cases of these variants reported in South Africa displayed mild symptoms. However, all those who contracted the variant were fully vaccinated. The response of the variant on unvaccinated is unknown. Experts suggest that the variants are expected to be less severe but individuals must adhere to Covid-appropriate behaviour until further details are accessed.
How many cases of BA.4 and BA.5 have been reported so far
Only a few dozen cases of BA.4 and BA.5 have been reported so far to the global GISAID database, according to WHO. The UK's Health Security Agency said last week BA.4 had been found in South Africa, Denmark, Botswana, Scotland and England from Jan. 10 to March 30.
How to stay safe from these variants:
- Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.
- Keep a physical distance of at least 1 metre from others.
- Avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces at all costs.
- Open windows to improve ventilation in indoor spaces.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap, use sanitiser when you can't wash your hands.
- Get vaccinated- get both the jabs if you still have not received them. Get the booster shot if you are eligible for the same.