An emerging version of the omicron variant of coronavirus does not seem more severe than the variant’s original version, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
Dr. Boris Pavlin of the WHO's COVID-19 Response Team addressed the new variant in an online briefing as omicron’s more common BA.1 subvariant is replaced in Denmark and some other countries with the newer BA.2 subvariant.
"Looking at other countries where BA.2 is now overtaking, we're not seeing any higher bumps in hospitalization than expected," said Pavlin.
Pavlin said his remarks are based on data from Denmark, the first country where BA.2 surpassed BA.1. He added that vaccines continue to provide similar protection against the different forms of omicron.
The new iteration is more transmissible than the more common BA.1 variant, according to a Danish study that analyzed infections in more than 8,500 Danish households in December and January.
Denmark lifts most restrictions
But the spread of the new subvariant, which is also becoming dominant in India, Nepal, the Philippines and Qatar, did not stop Denmark Tuesday from lifting most pandemic restrictions.
Denmark, a country where more than 60% of its population over the age of 12 have received a third shot, said it no longer considers the COVID-19 outbreak “a socially critical disease” because the latest surge in infections is not placing a heavy burden on the country’s health system.
“I dare not say that it is a final goodbye to restrictions," Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Tuesday on Danish radio. "We do not know what will happen in the fall, whether there will be a new variant.”
Elsewhere in Europe, Ireland has dropped most restrictions, while the Netherlands and other countries are relaxing containment measures.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.