Coronavirus live: Japan and Poland report record cases; Germany seven-day rate at new high | World news

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The UK Health Security Agency said it was designating the Omicron offshoot a ‘variant under investigation’ because of “increasing numbers of BA.2 sequences identified both domestically and internationally”.

Early analysis suggests the BA.2 sub-variant may have an “increased growth rate” over the earlier form of Omicron, officially designated as BA.1, according to UKHSA, which stressed that there is a “low level of certainty early in the emergence of a variant”.

Moreover, BA.2 has not been named a ‘variant of concern’ — the highest risk ranking for new strains.

About 426 cases of the Omicron offshoot have been sequenced in the UK, with the first found in early December.

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