BA.2, a more transmissible subvariant of Omicron, appears to be on the rise in Manitoba.
According to a provincial spokesperson, as of mid-March, 11.8 per cent of COVID-19 tests were the BA.2 subvariant and recent sequencing suggests the rate of BA.2 is increasing.
With a lack of surveillance and a lack of widespread COVID-19 PCR testing, the numbers are skewed, and experts say it’s likely much higher.
“Given how long this has probably been circulating and our reduction in access to lab-based testing it would be likely that those ratios are probably higher,” epidemiologist Cynthia Carr told Global News.
She added that the rate the original BA.1 Omicron variant multiplied is another indicator the numbers are higher.
Experts say the more transmissible BA.2, coupled with a lack of COVID-19 restrictions in place, could be the concoction that fuels a spring wave of COVID-19.
“It won’t be surprising at all if there is a spring wave associated with this variant,” Carr said.
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Virologist Jason Kindrachuk says BA.2 will likely push out BA.1 as the dominant strain, just as Omicron overtook Delta.
“What we’re understanding now is BA.2 looks to be a bit more transmissible or transmissive than BA.1,” Kindrachuk said.
“That of course, puts us into the awkward position of saying, once again, we have another variant, that is more transmissible than the last variant.”
Kindrachuk said that so far, research suggests the severity of BA.2 is similar to BA.1’s.
“I think the reality is we have to appreciate that as soon as we start removing restrictions, there was going to be some bump in transmission, even without BA.2,” Kindrachuk said.
“That would be common, because again, we’re all going out, we’re loosening our restriction behaviours, we’re going to see a bump. The issue is we now have a more transmissible variant – how does that play into it?”
Kindrachuk said the pace and pattern the subvariant rises at will be a key detail.
“The big question is, what is the trajectory of that bump?” he noted. “Is it going to continue to progress upwards or is it going to increase but then see a faster plateau?”
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