Stealth Omicron in Preston, South Ribble and Chorley: Rates of contagious BA2 variant as Covid cases rise

The highly contagious coronavirus strain BA.2 is now responsible for more than four in five infections across England, research shows.

Monday, 28th March 2022, 1:52 pm
Updated Monday, 28th March 2022, 5:02 pm

Researchers analysing positive Covid tests from the week to March 12 found 84% were the subvariant, branded ‘Stealth Omicron’. That is up from 74% the week before.

The number is even higher in Preston, with 88.3% of samples testing positive for Stealth Omicron.

A total of 94 samples were tested - 83 of which were Stealth Omicron and 10 were the original Omicron variant, BA.1. One sample could not be identified.

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A Covid test is processed (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

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It was almost identical in South RIbble, 89.4% of samples coming back as Stealth Omicron. Of 94 samples taken, 84 were Stealth Omicron and 10 were original Omicron.

Chorley, 90.2%, was slightly higher again but from a smaller sample size. Of those 41 tests, 37 came back as Stealth Omicron, three as the original Omicron and one unidentified.

In terms of the wider Lancashire picture, Rossendale had the second highest proportion of tests coming back as Stealth Omicron in the whole country, 96.3%, but a relatively small sample size of 27 tests.

At the other end of the spectrum, Hydnburn saw just 60% of 10 tests come back positive while in Wyre, 74% of 108 samples tested were identified as Stealth Omicron.

The analysis by the Wellcome Sanger Institute comes as coronavirus infections and hospitalisations surge across the UK, with researchers saying the contagious subvariant is a key reason for the spike.

Stealth Omicron got its nickname because it is more difficult to differentiate from Delta than the original Omicron variant, BA.1.

It is also more contagious but early studies seem to show no greater risk of hospitalisation for an infected person, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The Wellcome Sanger Institute analysed more than 41,000 Covid tests from the week ending March 12, taken from every part of England.

Regionally, London had the greatest proportion of samples testing positive for Stealth Omicron.

The region had 87.9% of samples testing positive, followed by the East of England with 85.6% and the North West with 85.1%.

The North East had the lowest positivity rate in England with 71.7% of samples testing positive for Stealth Omicron.

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