Preliminary evidence shows the new subvariant could be 15% more contagious. What makes it more transmissible, and is it behind the high case numbers in the UK?
It’s been a recurring theme in the pandemic: just when we think we’re on top of an outbreak, COVID-19 rears its ugly head and makes things complicated. This time, it’s a new subvariant of the Delta strain coupled with waning immunity causing cases to spike abroad.
So, just how serious is it?
What we know so far
The new subvariant AY4.2 accounted for around 6% of sequenced COVID-19 cases in the UK by late September and has also emerged in the US, Israel, India, Japan, China, Russia and parts of the European Union. It’s yet to be classified as either a variant of interest or a variant of concern by the World Health Organization, though the UK government has declared it a “variant under investigation”. The Israel Health Ministry has found it may be 15% more contagious than the original Delta variant but so far doesn’t appear to be more deadly.
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