A NEW variant of the Omicron Covid variant has been discovered in Winchester, it has been reported this evening.

According to the latest figures from the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, two cases of the new BA.2 variant called 'stealth Omicron' have been identified in the Winchester district. Other parts of Hampshire have also seen cases, with one in Basingstoke, seven in Rushmoor and one in Portsmouth.

The Evening Standard reports that nationally the figure is 426, a tiny fraction of the number with 94,326 Covid cases reported yesterday.

It has been nicknamed 'stealth omicron' because it is harder to detect than the main variants.

READ MORE HERE: Hampshire NHS omicron impact

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)'s Dr Meera Chand, Covid-19 incident director, said: “It is the nature of viruses to evolve and mutate, so it’s to be expected that we will continue to see new variants emerge as the pandemic goes on.

“So far, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether BA.2 causes more severe illness than Omicron BA.1, but data is limited and UKHSA continues to investigate.”

Hampshire Chronicle: The latest Covid figures for Winchester district

Covid numbers in Winchester continued to rise although the Omicron variant appears to be more contagious but milder than previous strains. In the seven days to January 21 there were 1,518 cases, up 520 on the previous seven days, a 52 per cent rise for a rolling number per 100,000 of 1,205.

SEE ALSO: Covid: five deaths this year in Winchester and numbers going back up

There are a relatively low number of patients in the three hospitals of the Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, with 73 in total: 36 at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, 36 at Basingstoke and one at Andover. This compares to 57 on January 5, with 32 in Winchester, 25 in Basingstoke and none in Andover.

The variant is being reported around the world.

The death toll in Winchester district since the start of pandemic two years ago is now 192, an increase of six this year.

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Kimberley Barber