A sub-variant of the highly transmissible Omicron version of coronavirus known as BA.2 is now dominant worldwide, prompting surges in many countries in Europe and Asia and raising concern over the potential for a new wave.

BA.2 now represents nearly 86% of all sequenced cases, according to the World Health Organization. It is even more transmissible than its highly contagious Omicron siblings, BA.1 and BA.1.1, however, the evidence so far suggests that it is no more likely to cause severe disease.

Omicron has two prominent subvariants – BA.1 and BA.2. While BA.1 is the original strain, BA.2 is more infectious and widespread.

The XE variant is what is called a ‘recombinant’, which means it contains the mutations found in BA.1 as well as BA.2. According to the World Health Organisation, “recombination is common among coronaviruses and is regarded as an expected mutational event.”

According to WHO, the XE variant was first detected in the United Kingdom on January 19. Since then, more than 600 samples of XE have been found in several different countries.

The rise in variants BA.2 and XE in certain parts of the world is most likely due to a combination of its higher transmissibility, people’s waning immunity and relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions. It is highly recommended to take boosters for all age groups in view of rising infections and continue practicing masks, social distancing & personal hygiene.