Omicron Variant BA.2.12: What We know So Far

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With Hong Kong easing its social distancing rules, lockdowns, border closers, and other remaining sectors that have yet to be reopened, Omicron variant BA.2.12 has been detected in at least 13 other countries, including Hong Kong, with the United States having the highest cases so far.

It also appears to be outcompeting other strains.

Hong Kong authorities confirm the sub-variant has already been detected among imported cases.

According to the Center for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) in a press conference on 30 April 2022, there were 25 imported cases in the city.

Among the imported infections recorded, Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan of the CHP said there were 10 cases with the new Omicron sub-variants BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1. All of the cases were detected on arrival or during quarantine, she added.

Dr. Chuang also said the strains are sub-lineages of the highly contagious BA.2 Omicron variant, and that some studies have shown they are more transmissible. She expressed hope the outbreak would continue to ease but added the authorities do not have an estimate on when infection figures would drop to double digits.

“The Omicron variant is infectious. There could be millions of people who haven’t been infected and people could be infected even after vaccination.

“Cases could rebound as people gather more often in view of relaxation of social distancing measures. We’re also facing pressure in terms of imported cases as the global pandemic continues,” she said.

She added the authorities will monitor the situation.

What is the Omicron variant? 

The Omicron variant was first identified in Botswana and South Africa in November 2021 and on 26 November 2021, the World Health Organization designated Omicron a “variant of concern.”

What is BA.2.12? Should we be worried? 

There are several genetically distinct versions of Omicron. BA.1 was the most common. BA.2 appeared a few weeks ago but it’s BA.2.12 that is highly transmissible and less responsive to vaccines. Still, it seems to cause less severe illness and fewer deaths among those who are immunized.

Many scientists believe that the Omicron variant may spread faster because it’s skilled at avoiding the antibodies produced by vaccines and previous infections.

Also, according to British scientists, the Omicron variant is good at infecting others in the nose.

People infected with Omicron usually develop symptoms after three days from their infections and do not have higher viral loads.

Does having a booster shot helps protect against Omicron? 

Many studies have shown that full vaccination plus a booster shot provides strong protection against Omicron — at least in the short term. 

To go further, booster shots from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines provided antibodies that blocked many Omicron viruses from infecting the cells compared to other brands.