The Slovenia Times

New Omicron subvariant confirmed in Slovenia


Ljubljana - Slovenia has confirmed its first case of the BA.2 sub-lineage of the Omicron coronavirus variant, the national lab chief told reporters on Thursday, noting it was not yet clear whether the new strain was more contagious than the original one.

Tjaša Žohar Čretnik, the head of the National Laboratory for Health, Environment and Food (NLZOH), said the BA.2 subvariant was confirmed in a person from Podravje, in the north-east of the country.

The official said that as yet unofficial data suggests two further cases of BA.2 had been confirmed by the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology at the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine.

The BA.1 has been the prevailing lineage in the current Omicron-driven wave of coronavirus. The new variant replaced Delta in a matter of weeks and now it is present in 95% of the samples which test positive in PCR testing.

Žohar Čretnik said there was not yet conclusive data on the difference in virulence between the two subvariants of Omicron.

"We're obviously concerned as each new variant entails a risk that needs to be evaluated as we go along, and of course we don't want a sixth wave of the epidemic that would be even worse than the fifth," she said.

The UK Health Security Agency detected more than 400 cases of the new subvariant in the first ten days of January, noting that the fresh strain had also been detected in about 40 other countries, including India, Denmark and Sweden where most of the new cases are of this subvariant.

The highly infectious Omicron variant has been driving up new cases in Slovenia with more than 14,000 recorded on Wednesday after an all-time high of close to 17,500 the day before.

Despite regular testing, infections are increasingly making their way into non-Covid hospital wards. Under a new protocol, infected patients will no longer need to be moved to Covid wards but can be isolated in their rooms.

Tatjana Lejko Zupanc, the head of the UKC Ljubljana Department of Infectious Diseases, told reporters those patients were still being taken to get treatment and diagnostic procedures which involves disinfection and airing of premises while all staff needs to wear full personal protective equipment.

Hospitals will have the discretion to organise themselves the best way they can. Along with an increasing demand for more Covid beds, another major problem is increasing staff absenteeism due to infections, quarantine, childcare and burnout.

Robert Carotta, the coordinator for Covid hospital beds, said the Covid bed capacity would be increased depending on the situation.

Of the 583 patients treated at non-ICU units of Covid wards 58% are being treated for Covid as their prime condition, which compares to 80% of such patients in early January.

The government's Covid spokesperson Maja Bratuša announced that due to the changed situation data would be released on which patients are being treated for Covid and which are at hospitals with Covid but treated for other conditions.

Due to the difficult situation hospitals are already cancelling elective treatments.


More from Society