The fast-spreading Omicron subvariant raises concerns

A coin-variant of the COVID-19 virus is spreading rapidly in many parts of the world and has experts worried.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that BA.2, a subvariant of Omicron, caused 35% of all new cases in the United States. In northeastern states, including New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, BA.2 accounted for more than half of cases. The total number of infections, however, has declined and authorities across the country have lifted measures such as mandatory cloth face coverings and social distancing.

The Omicron variant of the virus was first reported last November in South Africa. It has three main sub-variants called BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3. Scientists believe they all have appeared at the same time, but Omicron BA.1 was linked to most of the cases reported in recent months.

A member of the medical staff speaks with a patient with COVID-19 in the infectious diseases department of the university hospital in Strasbourg, eastern France, January 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-François Badias)

Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted reported cases of Omicron BA.2 increased compared to BA.1. The health agency found that although BA.2 may spread faster, it does not make people any sicker than BA.1.

Tuesday, the WHO wrote in its weekly report that BA.2 had surpassed all other versions of the virus in Southeast Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, the Western Pacific and Europe. In Great Britain, the Office for National Statistics has also reported that BA.2 infection cases were higher than other versions in early March.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is the US government’s top infectious disease expert. He told ABC This week program that the United States would likely see an increase in infections like Britain. Fauci said: “They have BA.2. They have a relaxation of some restrictions such as inside masking.” Additionally, immunity to vaccines and past infections was also declining.

Dr. Eric Topol is the head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute. He told the Associated Press: “It’s inevitable we will see a BA.2 wave here.

However, Ali Mokdad, a professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington does not expect a large increase in the United States in the coming weeks.

He wrote on Twitter: “Our models do not suggest that there will be much increase in the United States in the coming weeks, if at all. However, it is possible that the quick back to the meadow #COVID-19[FEMININE[FEMININE the behavior and spread of BA.2 could see a short period of increase in the number of cases.

And a start study in Qatar also suggests that vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will work against both Omicron subvariants. The results suggest that the level of protection against BA.2 is about the same as for BA.1.

I am Mario Ritter, Jr.

Hai Do wrote this report for VOA Learning English.

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words in this story

variant nm something that is different in some way from others of the same kind;

masking -not. the fact of covering the face in particular for health reasons

inevitable –adj. not avoidable; will certainly happen

quick –adj. very quickly; happens fast

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