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COVID-19 TESTS

Danish study finds ‘stealth Omicron’ spreads more than original variant

A sub-variant of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus strain is even more infectious than the original version, according to a Danish study published on Monday.

Denmark's State Serum Institute has looked at the difference between to subvariants of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
Denmark's State Serum Institute has looked at the difference between to subvariants of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Sub-variant BA.2 — also called “stealth Omicron” — was detected earlier this year and has displaced the first Omicron variant, known as BA.1, as the dominant strain in Denmark.

A person infected with BA.2 has a 39 percent chance of transmitting the virus to someone else in their household within a week, compared to a 29 percent risk with BA.1, Denmark’s infectious disease agency State Serum Institute (SSI) said in a statement.

The study by SSI researchers and Danish universities involved 18,000 people and was carried out between December 20 and January 18.

SSI doctor Camilla Holten Møller said BA.2 was more likely to infect unvaccinated people than BA.1.

Those who have been fully jabbed, particularly those who have received a booster dose, are much less likely to catch the strain, she added.

The SSI had previously said BA.2 was one-and-a-half times more infectious than BA.1, according to preliminary data.

Scientists are still monitoring the sub-variant’s transmissibility and the severity of illness it causes, but international data suggest it could spread quickly.

Denmark on Tuesday became the first EU country to lift all coronavirus restrictions despite record case numbers, citing its high vaccination rates and the lesser severity of Omicron.

The original Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa in November 2021 and has since become the world’s dominant strain.

READ ALSO: Denmark returns to ‘life as we knew it’ as Covid-19 restrictions end despite Omicron

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COVID-19 TESTS

Covid-19: Denmark halves test capacity due to low infection numbers

Denmark is to cut its Covid-19 testing capacity due to low demand at municipal PCR test centres.

Covid-19: Denmark halves test capacity due to low infection numbers

The daily number of PCR tests at local centres will therefore be reduced from 40,000 to 20,000, the Agency for Critical Supplies (Styrelsen for Forsyningssikkerhed) confirmed in a statement on Monday.

Some test centres are expected to close due to the reduced operations.

“The downscaling is expected to result in a further reduction in the number of test locations, while opening times will be adjusted in the country’s test centres,” the agency said in the statement.

“These adjustments will take place on an ongoing basis,” it added.

Recent months have seen Covid-19 infections receding in Denmark after the winter wave, which was driven by the Omicron variant of the virus.

Health authorities have credited a high level of immunity in the community, due to previous infections, and a high vaccination rate including booster vaccinations, in reducing the spread of the coronavirus throughout the spring.

Covid-19 is also known to be transmitted less during warmer seasons.

The lower number of cases is linked to the reduced demand for testing in Denmark. Last week saw an average of around 5,000 tests administered daily.

The government is expected later this year to present a Covid-19 testing strategy for late 2022 and next winter.

Denmark lifted the majority of its Covid-19 restrictions in February, with final travel restrictions ending in March.

Health authorities now only recommend taking a PCR test for Covid-19 if you have symptoms and are at risk of serious illness should you contract the virus.

Testing is no longer recommended for close contacts of people who have the virus or are suspected to have it.

READ ALSO: Denmark says Covid-19 testing now only needed for ‘special medical reasons’

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