New Centaurus Covid variant sparks fresh concerns amid winter wave

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A new Covid-19 variant has made its way from India into Australia, and it’s more transmissible than the others.

According to infectious disease expert Professor Robert Booy, there is no evidence to suggest the new strain, called “Centaurus”, is more severe.

Professor Booy said people should be concerned and alert as cases rise mid-winter nationwide.

“This is a call to action,” he said.

“We need to do things we were doing six months ago, better – wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing and working from home where possible.”

“The numbers are likely to rise to January levels,” Professor Booy said.

He warned of the impacts on the already struggling health systems if transmission rates increase.

”If we can reduce the transmission rate by 10 or 20 per cent, we’ll get the pressure off hospitals and GPs,” he said.

Older people experiencing Covid symptoms can also be prescribed antiviral medication in a telehealth consultation.

The new variant is a descendant of the BA2 strain.

Reinfection times for people who have already had Covid have been reduced country-wide from 12 weeks to just 4.

With the rate of transmission from new variants, people can expect to test for another round of Covid after a month of being infected initially if they present with new symptoms.

The World Health Organization is monitoring the new strain.

Some scientists fear the subvariant could be the most contagious seen so far, and say it is better placed to evade the protection of vaccines and prior infection.

Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva, told AFP that BA. 2.75’s spread in India indicated it could be more transmissible than the BA. 5 Omicron subvariant, which has been driving waves in Europe and the US.

“It seems to be becoming the dominant strain in India — the question is will it become the dominant strain all over the world?”

Flahault added that previous dominant strains, like Delta, had first taken over the country they emerged in before spreading across the world.

But he said there was a “margin of unpredictability,” pointing to how BA. 2.12.1 became dominant in the US but BA. 5 “succeeded” when the two came in direct competition.

Flahault added that successive variants made developing a vaccine to fight them more difficult, because by the time one jab targeting them was ready to be rolled out, newer strains had taken over.

It was far too early to know about the severity of BA. 2.75, he added. The Dutch sample was collected in the northern region of Gelderland on June 26, the institute said, adding it was “closely monitoring the situation” there.

Earlier this month, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control listed BA. 2.75 as a “variant under monitoring”.

Originally published as New Centaurus Covid variant sparks fresh concerns amid winter wave


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