BOTSWANA – Botswana has discovered new Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, said a government official in a press release.
The new subvariant is a result of mutations of the already existing Omicron variant, which is dominant in Botswana and the rest of the world.
“Only one case of the Omicron sublineage XBB.1.5 has so far been detected in Botswana,” said Malepa Dibonwa, the acting spokesperson in Botswana’s Ministry of Health.
He warned that the new strain is easily transmitted and urged people to get vaccinated, avoid overcrowding indoors, and wear masks whenever possible. Those who are suffering from the disease should seek medical attention, he said.
Earlier this month, Botswana reported a single COVID-19 death, the southern African country’s first in four months after the detection of new subvariants of the COVID-19 Omicron variant BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 early last month.
Botswana has detected new sub-variants of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, the government announced Friday, saying the sub-lineages have been dominant in other countries in Europe and Asia.
In a statement, the Botswana government also said that the sub-lineages of BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 have been detected following routine genome sequencing of Covid-19, adding that the impact of the observed changes remains to be established.
As of December, Botswana had recorded 326,633 coronavirus cases, 2,790 deaths and 323,747 recoveries.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Omicron variant is of concern and remains the dominant variant circulating globally.
BQ.1 is a sub-lineage of BA.5, which carries spike mutations in some key antigenic sites, including K444T and N460K, the WHO says.
In addition to these mutations, the sub-lineage BQ.1.1 carries an additional spike mutation in a key antigenic site (i.e. R346T).
“Based on currently available knowledge, protection by vaccines against infection may be reduced but no major impact on protection against severe disease is foreseen,” WHO said.
“The two (BQ.1 and BQ.1.1) are sub-lineages of the existing BA.5 Omicron variant that has been dominant in Botswana for the last few months and has additional changes to the virus,” Botswana Health Permanent Secretary Christopher Nyanga said in a statement.
“The Ministry of Health advises Botswana and all residents to remain vigilant and take precautionary measures of protection,” Dr Nyanga said.