Botswana health officials have discovered a new COVID-19 variant which is believed to be a mutation of the Omicron variant first detected in southern Africa in late 2021.
In a statement on Monday, Ministry of Health permanent Christopher Nyanga said the sub-variant, named Omicron B.A.4 and B.A.5, was detected in four people who have exhibited mild symptoms so far.
“The Ministry of Health and Wellness wishes to inform members of the public that our scientists have been investigating new coronavirus mutations detected in Botswana. On further analysis and verification, these mutations which have been so far detected in four people in Botswana, have been noted as a new sub-lineage of the Omicron variant,” Nyanga said.
The four cases are currently being monitored to gather more information about the potential impact on the disease spread and severity, he said.
“So far, no conclusions have been made yet in relation to whether the sub-lineage is more deadly and more transmissible than the known omicron variant.”
He called on the public not to panic, saying investigations on whether existing COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the new variant are ongoing.
“The public is further encouraged to vaccinate and take booster shots if eligible. This is important because in the event the new variants of COVID-19 emerge and spark a new wave of infections (Fifth wave) the impact may be more severe for the unvaccinated,” he said.
The Omicron variant was first detected by scientists in South Africa and Botswana in November 2021 and triggered a travel ban to and from southern Africa by most Western countries.