Highly mutated COVID variant found in new countries but pandemic in 'a different phase’

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(VOVWORLD) - A highly mutated COVID variant called BA.2.86 has now been detected in Switzerland and South Africa in addition to Israel, Denmark, the U.S. and the U.K., according to a leading World Health Organization official.

The Omicron offshoot carries more than 35 mutations in key portions of the virus compared with XBB.1.5, the dominant variant through most of 2023 - a number roughly on par with the Omicron variant that caused record infections compared to its predecessor.

A dozen scientists around the world said while it was important to monitor BA.2.86, it was unlikely to cause a devastating wave of severe disease and death given immune defenses built up worldwide from vaccination and prior infection.