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COVID-19: The emerging Omicron sub lineages

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Issues related to health


Source: TH

 Direction: COVID-19 is once again in the news as new variants are creating havoc around the world. The article discusses these new variants, and concerns raised by them and suggest ways to control them.

 Context: Since the initial outbreak in Wuhan (China) in 2019, the world has seen many waves of COVID-19 infections, mostly driven by new variants of concern (VOCs) of the primary virus – severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).


  • Viruses constantly change through mutation and sometimes these mutations result in a new variant of the virus. A sub-lineage is a group of genetically similar viruses with a common ancestor.
  • The SARS-CoV-2 virus has the potential to evolve by exchanging large fragments of the genome, called recombination.
  • Until recently, China remained successful in containing the spread of the disease owing to its zealous “zero-COVID” policy.
  • However, with the abrupt lifting of the policy, the country is now facing a surge of COVID-19 cases as a result of .7 – a variant of Omicron.

The SARS-CoV-2 lineages circulating in China:

  • According to the SARS-CoV-2 sequencing data submitted from China to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) – a globally accessible repository of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences, the country has seen –
    • Delta and its sub-lineages in 2021.
    • Omicron and its sub-lineages (BA.5.2, BQ.1.1, .7, BF.5, BA.2.75 and the recombinant lineage XBB) in 2022.

Omicron sub-variants under monitoring:

  • Owing to the large-scale spread of Omicron and its sub-lineages across the world, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has added another category of variants referred to as ‘Omicron sub-variants under monitoring’.
  • Currently, under this category include BA.2.75, BA.4.6, XBB, BA.2.3.20 and sub-lineages of BA.5 including BF.7 and BQ.1, are being monitored.


  • An overwhelming increase of cases in a populous country like China will not only result in tremendous loss of life but will also allow the virus to mutate, potentially resulting in new variants.
  • Some of the lineages have seen a growth advantage over others in highly vaccinated regions including Europe and the U.S.

Way ahead:

  • Monitor the spread and evolution of these sublineages.
  • With vaccine immunity diminishing, genomic surveillance will be critical to understanding Omicron’s ongoing evolution.

Variants of concern (VOCs): It is classified by WHO when it is linked to an increase in transmissibility or a detrimental change in Covid-19 distribution, an increase in severity, or a decline in the efficiency of public health efforts


Insta Links:

The COVID-19 pandemic, food and socializing


Mains Links:

Q. Explain the rationale behind the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Act of 2017. How has COVID-19 impacted the GST compensation fund and created new federal tensions? (UPSC 2020)


Prelims Links: (UPSC 2022)

In the context of vaccines manufactured to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic, consider the following statements:

  1. The Serum Institute of India produced a COVID-19 vaccine named Covishield using an mRNA platform.
  2. The Sputnik V vaccine is manufactured using a vector-based platform.
  3. COVAXIN is an inactivated pathogen-based vaccine.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

    1. 1 and 2 only
    2. 2 and 3 only
    3. 1 and 3 only
    4. 1, 2 and 3

 Ans: 2 


The Serum Institute of India produced a COVID-19 vaccine named Covishield but not using the mRNA platform. It has been prepared using the viral vector platform.