Bloomberg | | Posted by Lingamgunta Nirmitha Rao

Health authorities in the UK have identified a number of omicron variants that could fuel resurgent waves of Covid-19 infections as winter progresses.

The UK Health Security Agency said it’s studying the so-called BQ.1 and XBB sublineages of omicron as well as several new variants of the BA.2 family.

The health agency warned that the newly emerging BA.2 variants have the potential to drive new waves of infections as lab studies show they could partially sidestep existing immunity.

“It is not unexpected to see new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge,” said Meera Chand, the UKHSA’s director of clinical and emerging infection, in a statement. “Vaccination remains our best defence against future Covid-19 waves.”

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Britain’s growing focus on these new subvariants comes a week after European health authorities said the BQ.1 subvariant and its sublineage BQ.1.1 will probably drive another wave of Covid infections across the continent toward the end of this year.

Read more: New Omicron Subvariant Is Expected to Drive Covid Wave in Europe

The BQ.1 subvariants are also gaining ground in the US, where they are responsible for an estimated 16.6% of cases, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Meanwhile, the XBB variant is thought have contributed to a recent spike in cases in Singapore, the UK Health Security Agency said.

The UK is pushing through a new round of boosters to people aged 50 or above and those with weak immunity to prevent a surge in severe Covid disease and death in winter. Cases have seen a spike from summer but recorded declines in the recent two weeks, according to the government’s surveillance data.

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