CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan reports 17 new cases of BA.4, BA.5 subvariants
Taipei, June 20 (CNA) Seventeen recent arrivals to Taiwan have been determined to be infected with the Omicron subvariants BA.4 or BA.5, Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) reported Monday.
To date, genome sequencing results have shown that 65 arrivals to Taiwan between May 30 and June 12 have been infected with the BA.4 or the BA.5 subvariants. They all tested positive on arrival, said Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞), deputy head of the CECC's medical response division.
The 11 cases of BA.4 were travelers from the United States, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Chile.
The 54 cases of BA.5 were found among arrivals from the United States, Germany, Spain, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Poland, Hungary, France, South Africa, El Salvador, Malaysia, and Switzerland.
BA.4 and BA.5 were first detected in South Africa in January and February 2022, respectively, and triggered a new wave of COVID-19 infections in the country between April and May, according to the CECC.
The two subvariants can evade immunity from prior infections and appear to be more transmissible than the original Omicron variant.
The two subvariants have spread to more than 40 countries and regions, including Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, according to World Health Organization data.
Asked whether the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants could overtake BA.2 to become the most dominant variant in Taiwan, Lo said that it was unlikely this would happen in the next two months, as the speed at which the two new subvariants are growing is slower than when Omicron began to surpass Delta in November last year.
The CECC will continue to monitor the two new subvariants, which are a factor for why Taiwan cannot further relax its border restrictions more quickly, as a rapid increase in BA.4 and BA.5 infections could threaten the country's medical capacity, said Lo.
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