Virologists have expressed concern about another highly contagious virus Omicron variant that arrived in the UK.

The BA.2.75 variant, nicknamed the Centaur, is quickly gaining traction in India after it was first discovered there in May.

The new variant is believed to be spreading at an even faster rate than its Omicron siblings BA.5 and BA.2, and has now been detected in around 10 other countries, including the UK, US, Australia, Germany and Canada.

It remains unclear whether it can cause more serious disease than other Omicron variants, but scientists say it can bypass immunity from vaccines and previous infection.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) designated BA.2.75 as a “variant under surveillance” on July 7, meaning there are signs that it may be more transmissible.

Experts’ concerns are fueled by the large number of mutations BA.2.75 contains compared to its Omicron predecessors.

Some of these mutations are in regions associated with the spike protein and may allow the virus to bind to cells more effectively, said Matthew Biniker, director of clinical virology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Another problem is that genetic changes can make it easier for the virus to bypass antibodies, protective proteins produced by the body in response to a vaccine or infection from an earlier variant.

But experts say vaccines and boosters are still the best defense against severe Covid.

It may take several weeks to understand whether the latest Omicron mutant can affect the trajectory of the pandemic.

Shishi Luo, head of infectious diseases at Helix, a company that supplies virus sequencing information to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said BA.2.75 is another reminder of coronavirus constantly evolving – and spreading.

ECDC has designated BA.2.75 as a “variant under monitoring”, meaning there are indications that it may be more transmissible

(Getty Images)

“We would like to go back to life before the pandemic, but we still need to be careful,” she said.

“We have to accept that we are now living with a higher level of risk than before.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that Covid remains a global emergency almost two and a half years after it was first declared.

The UN agency’s emergency committee, made up of independent experts, said in a statement that the rise in cases, the continued evolution of the virus and the pressure on health services in a number of countries meant the situation still remained an emergency.

The number of new coronavirus cases reported worldwide rose for the fifth week in a row, while the number of deaths remained relatively stable, the WHO said on Thursday.

The rise of Covid continues to put pressure on the NHS

(PA Wire)

In its weekly review of the Covid pandemic, the UN health agency said 5.7 million new infections were confirmed last week, an increase of 6 percent. 9,800 deaths were reported, roughly the same as the previous week.

Earlier this week, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the pandemic was still considered a global emergency and he was “concerned” by the recent outbreak.

“The virus is spreading freely and countries are not dealing effectively with the burden of the disease,” Dr Tedros said.

“New waves of virus show again that Covid is not over yet.”

In the past two weeks, the number of Covid cases reported to the WHO has increased by 30 percent, mainly due to Omicron’s highly infectious relatives, BA.4 and BA.5.

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