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BA.4, BA.5 rises in Europe; officials sound the alarm about COVID-19 surge

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BA.4, BA.5 rises in Europe; officials sound the alarm about COVID-19 surge

Next wave

As with all waves, there is a risk of an increase in deaths and hospitalizations.


Members of the public queue outside a pharmacy to receive COVID-19 antigen tests in Paris on January 6, 2022.

Enlarge / Members of the public queue outside a pharmacy to receive COVID-19 antigen tests in Paris on January 6, 2022.

Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are on the rise in the European Union, spurring officials there to warn that a surge of COVID-19 cases will likely follow in the coming weeks.

In an alert Monday, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control cautioned that various factors would influence how bad the expected BA.4/BA.5 wave will be. These factors include the amount of vaccinations and the history of infection. They also consider the timing since these events, which can affect how much protection is available.

BA.4 and BA.5 are clumped together because they share the same mutations in the genetic coding for their spike proteins, though they have differing mutations elsewhere in their genome. Both have a transmission advantage over the initial omicron subvariant, BA.1, as well as subvariants BA.2 and BA.2.12.1.

So far, there’s no indication that BA.4 or BA.5 cause more severe infections than the currently circulating omicron subvariants–specifically BA.2 and BA.2.12.1. However, they appear to be better equipped to evade immunity from vaccines and previous omicron infections. This could lead to more breakthrough infections. “As in previous waves,” the ECDC writes, “an increase in COVID-19 cases can result in a rise in hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths. “

Rising subvariants

BA.4 and BA.5 were first seen in South Africa in January and February and arrived in the EU in March. It has been spreading rapidly in recent years. Portugal is the first EU country to see a wave, with BA.5 accounting for 87 percent of cases as of May 30. The number of BA.4/BA.5 cases in Sweden, Austria, Belgium and France is increasing.

In Belgium, BA.5 accounted for 19 percent of samples recently, and BA.4 accounted for 7.5 percent. In Spain, BA.4 and BA.5 accounted for more than 10 percent. BA.5 recently reached 8 percent in the Netherlands, while BA.4 was at 5 percent.

The US is facing a similar outlook: BA.4 and BA.5 are gaining ground close on the heels of BA.2. 12.1, which achieved dominance in the US just at the end of May. Currently, BA.2. 12.1 accounts for an estimated 62.2 percent of US cases, while BA.4 accounts for 5.4 percent, and BA.5 is at 7.6 percent, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pair accounted for just 2% of all cases less than a month ago.

The pair have significant potential to spur a new wave of infection in the US. Though more than 28 million Americans were infected amid the BA.1 wave that peaked in January, BA.4 and BA.5 can evade BA.1-derived neutralizing antibodies. And while the Food and Drug Administration in March authorized a second COVID-19 booster dose for those ages 50 and above, only 15 million people in that age group got a second booster so far. That’s about 25 percent of people who received the first booster. Only 47 percent of fully vaccinated people in all age groups–about 104 million–received a first booster since last fall.

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USB logos finally make sense, thanks to a redesign

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USB logos finally make sense, thanks to a redesign


Author: Mark Hachman
, Senior Editor

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

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Cheaper OLED monitors might be coming soon

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Cheaper OLED monitors might be coming soon


Author: Michael Crider
, Staff Writer

Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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New Pixel Watch leak reveals watch faces, strap styles and more

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New Pixel Watch leak reveals watch faces, strap styles and more
Google Pixel watch



The Google Pixel Watch is incoming
(Image credit: Google)

We’re expecting the Google Pixel Watch to make its full debut on Thursday, October 6 – alongside the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro – but in the meantime a major leak has revealed much more about the upcoming smartwatch.

Seasoned tipster @OnLeaks (opens in new tab) has posted the haul, which shows off some of the color options and band styles that we can look forward to next week. We also get a few shots of the watch interface and a picture of it being synced with a smartphone.

Watch faces are included in the leak too, covering a variety of different approaches to displaying the time – both in analog and digital formats. Another image shows the watch being used to take an ECG reading to assess heartbeat rate.

Just got my hands on a bunch of #Google #PixelWatch promo material showing all color options and Watch Bands for the first time. Some details revealed as well…@Slashleaks 👉🏻 https://t.co/HzbWeGGSKP pic.twitter.com/N0uiKaKXo0October 1, 2022

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Full colors

If the leak is accurate, then we’ve got four silicone straps on the way: black, gray, white, and what seems to be a very pale green. Leather straps look to cover black, orange, green and white, while there’s also a fabric option in red, black and green.

We already know that the Pixel Watch is going to work in tandem with the Fitbit app for logging all your vital statistics, and included in the leaked pictures is an image of the Pixel Watch alongside the Fitbit app running on an Android phone.

There’s plenty of material to look through here if you can’t wait until the big day – and we will of course be bringing you all the news and announcements as the Google event unfolds. It gets underway at 7am PT / 10am ET / 3pm BST / 12am AEDT (October 7).


Analysis: a big moment for Google

It’s been a fair while since Google launched itself into a new hardware category, and you could argue that there’s more riding on the Pixel Watch than there is on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro – as Google has been making phones for years at this point.

While Wear OS has been around for a considerable amount of time, Google has been leaving it to third-party manufacturers and partners to make the actual hardware. Samsung recently made the switch back to Wear OS for the Galaxy Watch 5 and the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, for example.

Deciding to go through with its own smartwatch is therefore a big step, and it’s clear that Google is envious of the success of the Apple Watch. It’s the obvious choice for a wearable for anyone who owns an iPhone, and Google will be hoping that Pixel phones and Pixel Watches will have a similar sort of relationship.

What’s intriguing is how Fitbit fits in – the company is now run by Google, but so far we haven’t seen many signs of the Fitbit and the Pixel lines merging, even if the Pixel Watch is going to come with support for the Fitbit app.

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you’ll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.

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