A new sister variant of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 is now the dominant one in Northern Ireland, a top GP here has said.
The BA.2 strain is even more transmissible than its connected Omicron variant of the disease according to Dr Alan Stout, chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee in Northern Ireland.
The GP said currently between one in 17 and one in 20 people here in NI are currently infected, one of the highest transmission levels seen since the start of the pandemic.
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“The new BA.2 strain has been with us now for a few weeks, and is undoubtedly the dominant strain here in Northern Ireland,” Dr Alan told Belfast Live.
“There is no hard and fast figure on it but our estimates show currently between one in 17 and one in 20 with the infection.
“It’s definitely here and it is definitely spreading far and wide.”
On Tuesday the Department of Health confirmed that eight people had died after testing positive for Covid 19 in the last 24 hours, while 2,899 more positive cases had been detected.
While there has been no major sign of an increase in hospitalizations due to the BA.2 variant, Dr Stout says there are signs of this happening across the water.
He added: “There are no signs of this right now, there has been a bit of an increase in hospitalizations in England and Scotland in particular.
“While they are not seeing a huge increase in the percentage of people going to hospital, the sheer volume of people becoming infected means it is adding to the continuing pressure on the health service.
“And with the risk of a high circulating virus there is always the chance of new variants.
“New variants are being detected right across the world, most are relatively insignificant but we do have to be on our guard.”
One of the biggest impacts of the new strain of Omicron has been across GPs in Northern Ireland, he added.
“While we are seeing 180 to 200 hospital admissions per week, we are seeing a much bigger impact on GPs.
“It’s those with milder symptoms coming into their GP and also coming in with secondary infections after testing positive.
“We are definitely seeing the effects of that, so we do need to be careful in how we approach that.”
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