Two new variants of COVID-19 have been identified in the UK, the country’s health security agency said on Friday.
In a statement, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there were a number of omicron variants currently circulating in England, and that many of these had acquired mutations that could produce a degree of escape from immunity.
UKHSA said that omicron sublineages BQ.1 and XBB have been given variant designations for further studies.
Neither, however, have been designated variants of concern.
UKHSA said it was thought that the XBB variant could be a factor in the recent spike in cases in Singapore.
The University of Oxford is carrying out neutralization studies, and these have suggested that as immunity wanes, these new and emerging variants could fuel future waves of COVID-19 infections.
Dr. Meera Chand, director of Clinical and Emerging Infection at UKHSA, said: “It is not unexpected to see new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge. Neither BQ.1 nor XBB have been designated as variants of concern and UKHSA is monitoring the situation closely, as always.
“Vaccination remains our best defence against future COVID-19 waves, so it is still as important as ever that people come take up all the doses for which they are eligible as soon as possible.”