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Pakistan has reported the first case of the Omicron sub-variant BA.2.12.1, the National Institute of Health (NIH) said on Monday.

In a tweet, the NIH confirmed the presence of the new sub-variant in Pakistan. “This new sub-variant is causing incerasing number of cases in different countries,” it added.

The NIH urged people to follow social distancing protocols and get jabs against coronavirus.

It said that the best preventive measure “besides mask-wearing at crowded places, is COVID-19 vaccination.”

“We strongly recommend getting vaccinated and all those due for booster must get the shots immediately,” it added.

Omicron

According to experts, Omicron is a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that was first discovered in Botswana on November 11, 2021 and designated a variant of concern by the WHO on November 26.

They said that Omicron has multiple different lineages including the original Omicron BA.1 (B.1.1.529) and also BA.2 and BA.3.

BA.2 is more infectious than BA.1 and has now taken over BA.1 to become the new dominant form of the SARS-CoV-2 virus worldwide, they added.

BA.2 shares many of these same mutations as the original Omicron variant, but also has 28 unique genetic changes of its own.

Four of these genetic changes are in the spike protein, which explains why some of its characteristics are different to the original Omicron variant (BA.1), including the fact it appears to be approximately 30 to 50% more infectious than BA.1.

The variant has been detected in at least 13 other countries, but the US has the highest levels of it so far. Scientists say it spreads even faster than stealth Omicron.