Two more types of Omicron were today classified as Covid variants of concern, but experts insist there is no need to worry.
Only a small number of cases of BA.4 and BA.5 have been identified in Britain so far.
But data suggests they are likely to have a ‘growth advantage’ over BA.2 — currently the dominant variant.
As of May 20, 115 cases of probable or confirmed BA.4 had been identified, with 67 in England, 41 in Scotland, six in Wales and one in Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, 80 cases of BA.5 have already been detected, made up of 48 in England, 25 in Scotland, six in Northern Ireland and one in Wales.
The news comes as as the latest data shows Covid cases have continued to collapse in England, with the outbreak now reaching its lowest level since mid-December last year.
Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, said there was no need to panic about the new variants because there is no current evidence of increased disease severity.
‘I have also not seen any indication that severity is altered so to what degree a wave might be followed by a rise in hospital cases is unclear,’ he said.
‘So, [it’s] disappointing news in the sense that it may reverse the current downward trend but otherwise no real need to worry yet.’