GENEVA: The World Health Organization (WHO) and US health authorities said today they are closely monitoring a new variant of Covid-19, although the potential impact of BA.2.86 is currently unknown.
WHO classified the new variant as one under surveillance “due to the large number (more than 30) of spike gene mutations it carries”, it wrote in a bulletin about the pandemic late yesterday.
So far, the variant has only been detected in Israel, Denmark and the US.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed it is also closely monitoring the variant, in a message on the social platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
There are only four known sequences of the variant, WHO has said.
“The potential impact of the BA.2.86 mutations are presently unknown and undergoing careful assessment,” WHO said.
WHO is currently monitoring upwards of 10 variants and their descent lineages.
Most countries that had established surveillance systems for the virus have since dismantled operations, determining it is no longer as severe and therefore could not justify the expense – a move WHO has denounced, calling instead for stronger monitoring.
In the last reporting period between July 17 and Aug 13, more than 1.4 million new cases of Covid-19 were detected and more than 2,300 deaths reported, according to a WHO statement.
The case load represents a rise by 63% from the previous 28-day period while deaths were down by 56%.
As of Aug 13, there were more than 769 million cases of Covid-19 confirmed and more than 6.9 million deaths worldwide, although the real toll is expected to be much higher because many cases went undetected.