‘Stealth’ version of Omicron detected that might be harder to track, scientists say

SCIENTISTS think they have found a "stealth" version of Omicron that might be harder to track.

It is thought a "sister" version has developed alongside the Covid variant threatening to upset the UK's progress out of the pandemic.

They dubbed it a sneakier version as it trickier to distinguish it from other variants when using PCR tests.

It has many of the same mutations as Omicron, but appears to be missing one that allows the labs to discover and then flag up cases.

The new form was first spotted in South Africa, Australia and Canada – with none of the seven known cases in the UK.

Australian health chiefs first revealed their discovery of BA.2 yesterday.

It was found in a South African man who had travelled from Gauteng, which has seen an explosion of Omicron cases.

Initial studies suggest the relative of the mutant variant has its own set of mutations.

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It could be more transmissible than Delta and able to dodge vaccines like Omicron, but far more research needs to be done on it.

Queensland's health minister Yvette D'Ath said: "'We are standing here announcing a new version of Omicron and it's a first in the world."

And Chief Health Officer Peter Aitken said experts worked out the difference, explaining: "[They] recognised there are differences between the full and normal Omicron classification, passed it on to the international committee in a really quick time frame.

"This now led to a re-classification of Omicron. It has enough genes to be classified as Omicron, but we don't know enough about it for what that means as far as clinical severity, vaccine effectiveness.

"What we do know is that Omicron is more infectious and more transmissible."

It comes as Britain prepares for more restrictions to come in, with Boris Johnson poised to announce Plan B.

It comes as:

  • Boosters are the best way to protect you and your loved ones – with early data showing they help beat Omicron
  • Join the Sun's Jab's Army to help get boosters in arms and fight the variant
  • The WHO says vaccines 'should' work against Omicron – with disease less severe
  • Millions of over-40s can now book in for their booster online
  • Know the signs of Omicron: Variant symptoms are different to the classic Covid trio

🔵 Read our Omicron variant live blog for the latest news

Government sources told The Sun that the tough measures could take effect as early as tomorrow morning.

Senior Cabinet Ministers are meeting to rubber-stamp the changes that signal a fresh blow to hopes of a normal Christmas.

Only days ago the Government was urging Brits to press ahead with festive party plans and said they had no intention to push the panic button.

But rapidly rising cases of the mutation – and evidence vaccines may not be as effective – have bounced the PM into rapid action.

Scientists warn that up to 1,000 Brits each day could now be catching the highly contagious form of the virus — with new cases ­doubling every three days.

But having a Pfizer booster jab will protect against the Omicron variant, new data suggests.

The promising findings of initial lab studies come as the Government urges all Brits to get their boosters as soon as they are eligible.

The Sun's Jab's Army has called upon all Brits to come forward and have their life-saving shot, with volunteers also needed to drive the rollout.

 

When Omicron first emerged earlier this month, scientists warned it may evade the vaccines.

The new data reveals two jabs do work to prevent serious illness from the mutant strain.

But, getting a booster shot, or a third dose, "turbocharges immunity" and is what is needed to successfully beat the variant, the study found.

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