Omicron subvariant appears more contagious, but not more severe, Denmark says

The UK Health Security Agency has designated BA.2 a variant under investigation.

In Summary

• "There is no evidence that the BA.2 variant causes more disease, but it must be more contagious,"

• Denmark on Wednesday announced plans to scrap the last of its COVID-19 restrictions by February 1.

Danish Minister of Health and the Elderly Magnus Heunicke attends a news conference on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Mirror Hall in the Prime Minister's Office at Christiansborg, Copenhagen, Denmark October 23, 2020.
Danish Minister of Health and the Elderly Magnus Heunicke attends a news conference on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Mirror Hall in the Prime Minister's Office at Christiansborg, Copenhagen, Denmark October 23, 2020.
Image: Ritzau Scanpix/Mads Claus Rasmussen via REUTERS

The BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron coronavirus variant, which is dominant in Denmark, appears more contagious than the more common BA.1 sub-lineage, Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said on Wednesday in a national address.

"There is no evidence that the BA.2 variant causes more disease, but it must be more contagious," Heunicke told a news conference.

The BA.1 lineage currently accounts for 98% of all cases globally but in Denmark has been pushed aside by BA.2, which became the dominant strain in the second week of January.

The UK Health Security Agency has designated BA.2 a variant under investigation, saying it could have a growth advantage. read more

Preliminary calculations suggest BA.2 could be 1.5 times more infectious than BA.1, Denmark's top infectious disease authority, Statens Serum Institut (SSI), said in a note on Wednesday.

However, an initial analysis by the institute showed no difference in the risk of hospitalisation for BA.2 compared to BA.1.

"There is some indication that it is more contagious, especially for the unvaccinated, but that it can also infect people who have been vaccinated to a greater extent," SSI's technical director Tyra Grove Krause said at the briefing.

This could mean the peak of Denmark's epidemic will extend a bit further into February than previously forecast, Krause said.

BA.2 cases have also been registered in Britain, Sweden and Norway, but to a much lesser extent than in Denmark.

Denmark on Wednesday announced plans to scrap the last of its COVID-19 restrictions by Feb 1, the latest country in Europe to do so despite record high daily infection numbers. read more