Newcastle and Tyneside continues to be overtaken by the contagious Stealth Omicron strain with the majority of positive tests in the region now attributed to BA.2.
Recent analysis has shown a staggering 74% increase in the strain’s presence in just one week.
77% of sampled analysed in the week ending on March 12 in Newcastle with the Steal Omicron strain, making the city the second most dominated in the North East, after Middlesbrough.
North Tyneside is close behind with 73.8% and Gateshead recorded 71.4%, whilst South Tyneisde is one of the less affected areas at 64.6%.
Nationwide, highly contagious coronavirus strain BA.2 is now responsible for more than four in five infections across England, research shows.
Researchers analysing positive Covid tests from the week to 12 March found 84% were the subvariant, branded ‘Stealth Omicron’.
The analysis by the Wellcome Sanger Institute comes as coronavirus infections and hospitalisations surge across the UK, with researchers saying the contagious subvariant is a key reason for the spike.
Stealth Omicron got its nickname because it is more difficult to differentiate from Delta than the original Omicron variant, BA.1.
It is also more contagious but early studies seem to show no greater risk of hospitalisation for an infected person, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
A spokesperson for the UKHSA said: “Omicron BA.2 is now the dominant variant in the UK, and has a significant growth advantage over Omicron BA.1.
“UKHSA continues to monitor all available data related to Covid-19 variants as a matter of routine, both in the UK and internationally.
“Vaccination provides a high level of protection against severe illness and it’s important that everyone has had their latest dose.
“We can all help reduce transmission by wearing a face covering in crowded or enclosed spaces, washing hands regularly and keeping rooms well ventilated.”
The Wellcome Sanger Institute analysed more than 41,000 Covid tests from the week ending March 12, taken from every part of England.
Regionally, London had the greatest proportion of samples testing positive for Stealth Omicron.
The region had 87.9% of samples testing positive, followed by the East of England with 85.6% and the North West with 85.1%.
The North East had the lowest positivity rate in England with 71.7% of samples testing positive for Stealth Omicron.
At a local level South Bucks had the greatest proportion of tests coming back positive.
The authority had a positivity rate of 97%, followed by Rossendale which recorded 96.3% and Barrow-in-Furness with 95.9%.