EU Agency Sees Risk of COVID Deaths Rising as Omicron Subvariants Spread

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Two newer Omicron lineages, BA.4 and BA.5, are spreading more quickly than other coronavirus variants in Europe, which could lead to more hospitalisations and deaths as they become dominant, the EU’s disease prevention agency said on Monday.

Though most EU countries have so far detected low proportions of the two sublineages. But in countries where the proportion has risen – such as Portugal, where BA.5 accounted for 87% of cases by May 30 – there have been surges in overall cases, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said on Monday.

The two sublineages were added to the World Health Organization’s monitoring list in March and have also been designated as variants of concern by the ECDC.

BA.4 and BA.5 do not appear to carry a higher risk of severe disease than other versions of Omicron, but an increase in case numbers from higher transmission rates alone risks leading to an increase in hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC said.

“The growth advantage reported for BA.4 and BA.5 suggest that these variants will become dominant,” the EU body said in a statement on its website.

In the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week BA.4 and BA.5 were estimated to make up 5.4% and 7.6%, respectively, of coronavirus cases nationally as of June 4 (https://bit.ly/3sdkZE6).

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