A new sub-variant of Omicron, that’s harder to detect and potentially more transmissible, has already arrived in Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed Wednesday that it’s aware of 51 cases of the BA.2 Omicron strain. Most cases are tied to international travel.
The update comes as access to COVID-19 testing is limited to only health-care workers and vulnerable individuals in many Canadian provinces, meaning the true number of cases could be higher. The initial Omicron strain that became dominant in Canada in a matter of weeks during November 2021 is known as BA.1. The new sub-variant has many similarities to it, but its genetic code contains a key deletion that makes it harder to detect using PCR tests.
“BA.2 does exhibit some differences from BA.1, including some mutations that may affect transmissibility, detection and possibly immune escape. There is very limited evidence at present to determine how impactful the differences between BA.1 an BA.2 may be, hence the ongoing efforts by PHAC scientists to monitor cases here in Canada and track developments internationally.”
The BA.2 sub-variant has already gained some traction in the UK, Denmark, and India according to a report from the World Health Organization. BC’s top doctor confirmed Tuesday that labs had detected a small number of BA.2 cases as early as two weeks ago, making the West Coast province the first in Canada to confirm its spread.
“We’re not seeing it taking over from Omicron as we saw Omicron take over from Delta. It’s difficult to know what the overall impact is going to be, if any.”
-Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry