Two new variants of Omicron have been identified by the World Health Organisation but they are not a cause for concern.
WHO said it did not believe the two new variants, XBB and BQ.1, warranted a public health concern as the strains did not “diverge sufficiently from each other or from other Omicron lineages”.
The XBB strain emerged in Singapore last week with transmission levels low across Australia. It has been detected in 35 countries and it has not been associated with an increase in new infections.
However, there is early evidence of a higher reinfection risk of those who were infected in the pre-Omicron period.
Professor Bruce Robinson said, “Vaccines are still the best defence against future waves of Covid-19. New variants aren’t necessarily a problem and we shouldn’t panic at every new mutation.
“It’s important to remember we have a significant wall of immunity through high vaccination rates that should continue to provide protection even against new variants.”
The BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants continue to be the most common strains in Australia but their dominance is declining.