Omicron XE: how many cases of new Covid variant have been detected in Birmingham?

XE combines elements of Stealth Omicron and original Omicron and it’s thought it could be more transmissible than both

Almost 1,300 cases of the new XE Omicron Covid variant have been identified in the UK to date, figures published this month (22 April) by the UK Healthy Security Agency (UKHSA) reveal.

XE is a mutation, or ‘recombinant’, which combines elements of two other Omicron sub variants – BA.2 (commonly dubbed Stealth Omicron) and BA.1, the original Omicron strain.

The World Health Organisation has warned it could be more transmissible than the highly transmissible BA.2, which has been driving a recent surge in cases in the UK.

UKHSA figures show as of 22 April, 1,293 cases of XE had been identified in England and one in Northern Ireland. No figures were reported for Scotland or Wales.

People wearing a face mask or covering due to the Covid-19 pandemic, walk along a busy shopping street in Birmingham city centre (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

How many cases have been detected in Birmingham?

In Birmingham, three cases of XE have been detected so far (as of April 9).

Elsewhere in the region, one case has been detected in Sandwell.

No local or regional figures are provided in UKHSA’s data.

Not all Covid PCR tests are genomically sequenced to find what strain of coronavirus the person was infected with – and the number of tests being taken has plummeted since free testing ended in England at the start of April – so there will be more XE cases going undetected in the country.

The data has been provided by genetics research body the Wellcome Sanger Institute, one of the bodies that does genetic sequencing for the UK government.

Their latest figures cover the week to 9 April, at which point it had identified 336 XE cases to date from genetically sequenced tests, the majority of them in March. Only two had been identified in the latest seven-day period – the week after free testing ended in England.

It is the first time XE cases have been included in the weekly variant surveillance report.

The Omicron XE variant was first detected in the UK on 19 January (Composite: Kim Mogg / JPIMedia)

Where did XE come from and what about the rest of the UK?

It was first detected in England in January, and is also known by its UKHSA designation, V-22APR-02.

Southwark, London has the most cases of XE detected so far, with 25.

20 cases have also been detected in Lewisham (2nd), and 11 in Broxbourne, Hetfordshire (3rd).

North Somerset is next on the list, where eight cases have been detected.

Eight cases have also been detected in Barnet (5th).

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