Almost 1,300 cases of the new XE Omicron Covid variant have been identified in the UK to date, figures published today (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.
It was first detected in England in January, and is also known by its UKHSA designation, V-22APR-02.
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.
It is the first time XE cases have been included in the weekly variant surveillance report.
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.
No local or regional figures are provided in UKHSA’s data.
Genetics research body the Wellcome Sanger Institute, one of the bodies that does genetic sequencing for the UK government, also provides data on Covid variants in England, broken down by council area.
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.
Here we reveal the council areas that have had the most XE cases detected to date as of 9 April, according to Wellcome Sanger.