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Oh God: There’s a new strain of COVID-19 in NSW

Health experts have confirmed there is a new sub-variant of Omicron, and it’s likely to double case numbers over the next six weeks.

On Thursday, New South Wales recorded 16,288 new cases of COVID-19 – the highest number of cases since January.

The influx of infections has been attributed to a new sub-variant of Omicron, known as the BA.2 variant.

Sydney wearing masks
Credit: Dean Lewins/AAP

The BA.2 variant seems to have a higher transmission rate compared to the original Omicron, which was already the most contagious strain of COVID-19 experienced in NSW.

UNSW associate professor James Wood has been keeping tabs on the BA.2 variant in Europe, and believes it’s about 25 percent more contagious than its predecessor.

“It first became clear in Denmark it was more transmissible than Omicron,” he explained to the ABC. “The dominant variant, for about a month, has been BA.2. We’ve started to see that pattern in a number of other countries like the UK and now we’re getting data that’s confirming that’s the case in Australia, in particular NSW.”

“We think by the end of the month it will [account for more than] 90 per cent of the cases [in NSW].” Eek.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has warned that the new variant is a “concern” for the health of the state. “It’s highly likely … in only another month or six weeks we could be looking at cases more than double what we’re currently getting,” Hazzard said on Thursday.

“People need to understand that while the community has gone to sleep on the virus, the virus hasn’t gone to sleep on the community,” he continued.

But despite NSW Health recommending that mask mandates should be reinstated to limit the impact of the new variant, Hazzard has stated that he’s “not at all keen” to reintroduce the mandate.

Thankfully, the BA.2 strain does not seem to be any more dangerous than Omicron. However, this is only a prediction based on early indications of the variant from Denmark, the UK and South Africa.

It goes without saying that the strain should still be taken extremely seriously, because the equally dangerous Omicron strain placed the NSW Health care system under immense pressure, and unfortunately claimed many lives.

So please take precautions, and most importantly, stay safe.