Health authorities in Botswana have announced that the country has recorded four cases of new mutations of the Covid-19 Omicron variant.
The Omicron variant, which was also first reported in the Southern African country, was declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation last year owing to its highly unusual profile with a significantly higher number of mutations than the four earlier variants of concern. It was also the most transmissible variant of concern.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the mutations have been detected in four people in Botswana so far, two of which are non-residents who had a travel history.
“On further analysis and verification, these mutations which have been so far detected in four people in Botswana, have been noted as a new sub-lineage of the Omicron variant. The preliminary finding of this new sub lineage in Botswana has been designated as Omicron BA.4 and BA.5. The quartet is fully vaccinated and has been experiencing only mild symptoms. The same new sub lineage has also been reported in three other countries,” read the statement.
Botswana said the four cases were currently being monitored to determine the impact of the mutations on disease spread and severity.
The properties and characteristics of the Omicron sub lineage are still under study hence no conclusions have been made yet in relation to whether or not it is more deadly and more transmissible than the known Omicron variant.
Investigations on whether Covid-19 vaccines are effective against this sub lineage are also ongoing.