Ghana has NOT recorded new, deadly COVID-19 variant

Information regarding an alleged outbreak of a new COVID-19 Variant called the COVID-Omicron XBB has been circulating on social media platforms, especially on WhatsApp. The message has been spreading for about a week now on many WhatsApp platforms and groups.

This message suggests that this variant is deadlier and not easy to detect as compared to the COVID-19 variant, urging everyone to observe the previous COVID-19 protocols to help reduce the spread.

Joint pain, headache, neck pain, upper back pain, pneumonia, and general loss of appetite are the symptoms stated as the signs of the COVID-Omicron XBB variant. It also further stated that the symptoms of this new variant do not include cough and fever. 

The message has been circulating following reports that Ghana has recorded some news COVID-19 cases. 

Fact-Check Ghana has verified the viral claim and presents the facts below.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the COVID-Omicron XBB variant is a recombination of other variants (BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75) sublineages and has a global prevalence of 1.3%. As of October 2022, WHO said it had been detected in only 35 countries. Even though WHO indicates that early evidence suggests the COVID-Omicron XBB variant has a higher reinfection risk, the global health body said the current data do not suggest the variant has substantial disease severity. 

Fact-Check Ghana’s checks on the Ghana Health Service (GHS) web page for an update on COVID-19 did not show any update about the outbreak of a new variant. There was also no information on the variant on the website of Ghana’s Ministry of Health. Indeed, no official of these health regulatory bodies has announced the country recording a new “deadly variant”. Sources from the Ghana Health Service also said that information circulating on social media about the COVID-Omicron XBB variant is old information.

The team’s checks further revealed that the message has not been circulating only in Ghana. It has been making rounds across other countries in the world. For instance, a statement released by the Department of Health in South Africa dismissed the news referring to it as an old fake news that first resurfaced during the peak of the pandemic without a traceable source.

A fact-check report by Reuters traced the source of the claim to a post made by a Facebook account in 2022.  This post however said the COVID-Omicron XBB is not deadlier and more severe than the COVID-Delta. The Reuters report also affirmed that there’s no evidence COVID-19 Omicron XBB variant has a higher mortality rate or is five times more ‘toxic,’ than the Delta variant.

From the above facts, Ghana has not recorded any new COVID-19 variant, despite recording new cases. Also, the viral message on COVID-Omicron XBB is old and some of its facts, including it being more deadly, are false. 

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