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New Omicron variant that can 'avoid immunity' set to become our dominant strain

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An Omicron sub-variant of Covid-19 that can evade vaccine immunity is on the rise in Victoria, with authorities warning it is on track to be the state’s major strain in line with virus spread in NSW and Queensland.

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Traces of BA.4/BA.5 in Victoria’s metro and regional wastewater have “risen significantly in recent weeks, indicating increasing transmission”, says Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.

First identified in catchments in April, the so called sub-lineage accounts for 17 per cent of Victorian infections and is forecast to overtake BA.2 as the state’s dominant strain within weeks.

Professor Sutton says the lifting numbers follow similar patterns in NSW and Queensland.

“The department of health anticipates the prevalence of BA.4/BA.5 in Victoria is likely to result in an increase in cases, including reinfections and hospital admissions.”

“This is because the strain has a greater ability than BA.2 to evade immunity provided by vaccination and earlier Covid-19 infection.”

There is no evidence at this stage that BA.4/BA.5 causes more severe disease but authorities are “closely monitoring the situation”.

Medical experts last week renewed calls for people to get boosters in the wake of rising infections and hospitalisations.

Almost 50,000 new Covid-19 cases and 82 deaths have been recorded nationally this weekend.

There are about 227,000 active cases nationwide, the highest mark since June 7. There are also over 3100 patients in hospital care, the most in five weeks.

Despite the data and the onset of winter, vaccine and mask mandates are being eased in some parts of the country.

Several states have started unwinding restrictions including allowing unvaccinated school staff back to work, lifting bans on unvaccinated visitors at nursing homes or relaxing mask requirements at airports.

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