'Stealth Omicron' Cases Surge

      March 08, 2022 12:10

      Cases of "stealth Omicron," a coronavirus subvariant thought to be even more contagious than the Omicron strain, have doubled here in just a week.

      According to health authorities on Monday, the BA-2 subvariant took up 22.9 percent of all cases in the first week of March, double the 10.3 percent in the previous week.

      "Lab tests on hamsters show that the subvariant proliferates very rapidly and is so highly pathogenic that it can damage the lung tissue, but there's no sufficient concrete basis yet for a theory about how the subvariant affects people or increases the severity of the disease," said Jeong Eun-kyeong, the chief of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

      "We'll keep monitoring because it's highly contagious and can contribute to increasing the transmission speed."

      Medical workers prepare to treat coronavirus patients in a hospital in Seoul on Tuesday. /Newsis

      But Prof. Kim Yoon of Seoul National University said, "It seems difficult for this subvariant to become a new dominant strain because that it's neither highly resistant to vaccines nor is the reinfection rate high."

      Omicron now accounts for nearly 100 percent of all COVID cases in the country in the first week of March.

      Meanwhile, Korea recorded 202,721 new infections as of Tuesday morning, with 1,007 severe cases. 

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