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Botswana, South Africa working to gain behavioural knowledge of new Covid sub-lineages

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Botswana, South Africa working to gain behavioural knowledge of new Covid sub-lineages

Botswana, South Africa working to gain behavioural knowledge of new Covid sub-lineages

13th April 2022

By: Thabi Madiba
Creamer Media Senior Research Assistant and Reporter

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World Health Organization (WHO) experts are currently working with scientists and researchers in Botswana and South Africa to deepen analysis of Covid-19 sub-lineages which have so far been identified in four people in Botswana and twenty-three in South Africa.

The identified sub-lineages variants are BA.4 and BA.5.

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Outside Africa, BA.4 and BA.5 have been confirmed in Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the UK.

“We are working with scientists in Botswana and South Africa to gain complete behavioural knowledge of these sub-lineages and supporting African countries enhance genomic surveillance to detect potentially dangerous variants and stay ahead of the virus,” said WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

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Moeti explained that currently there were no significant epidemiological differences observed between the new sub-lineages and known sub-lineages of the Omicron variant which include BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3 sub-lineages.

She noted that there was no cause for alarm with the emergence of the new sub-variants, adding that the WHO has not yet observed a major spike in cases, hospitalisations or deaths.

WHO called on countries to enhance genomic surveillance to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants and to submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database.

Moeti urged countries to also report initial cases or clusters of cases linked with a variant of concern to infection to the WHO.

“Additionally, countries should undertake field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the potential impacts of variants of concern on Covid-19 epidemiology such as severity, effectiveness of public health and social measures, diagnostic methods, immune responses, antibody neutralization or other relevant characteristics,” said Moeti.

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