Two cases of more-contagious Omicron variant confirmed in Manitoba
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This article was published 24/02/2022 (342 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Two cases of the COVID-19 BA.2 variant have so far been detected in Manitoba.
The variant is a sub-type of the Omicron variant, and early research shows it is more contagious than other Omicron strains, but more research needs to be conducted to understand how it could affect transmission and reinfection rates.
Officials confirmed two cases have been found here after chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said during a news conference Thursday that there hasn’t been “significant” BA.2 transmission.
“We have not seen significant levels of transmission in Manitoba at this point. There’s suggestion that this is more transmissible than the original strain of Omicron, not seeing a lot of evidence regarding that it’s more severe, so we’re continuing to follow these numbers. We’re still sequencing a significant proportion of our cases, we just haven’t seen a lot of BA.2 at this point,” Roussin said.
The first Manitoba case of BA.2 was confirmed Feb. 10 and the second was detected this week, the province said. A government spokesperson did not answer questions about what proportion of positive COVID-19 test results are being sequenced to check for BA.2 or other emerging variants of concern, or how the province can be confident in its efforts to track emerging variants when more accurate molecular-level PCR testing is so limited in Manitoba.
“The province has always had a robust system to detect variants utilizing samples from across the province to ensure that the introduction of a new variant is detected and communicated to public health,” the spokesperson said.
Only 1,428 PCR tests were conducted in Manitoba Wednesday, and the province doesn’t plan to make the tests more widely available to the public. Rapid-test results aren’t included in official case counts, so sequencing a proportion of PCR test results is the only way for the province to track the presence of COVID-19 variants.
Roussin said Thursday that the goal now is to test for “clinical purposes,” which involves offering PCR tests to hospitalized patients and those at highest risk of severe infections.
The World Health Organization has said BA.2 should still be considered a variant of concern. Transmission of BA.2 is growing, but overall, COVID-19 cases are still declining around the world.
“WHO will continue to closely monitor the BA.2 lineage as part of Omicron and requests countries to continue to be vigilant, to monitor and report sequences, as well as to conduct independent and comparative analyses of the different Omicron sublineages,” it said in a statement Tuesday.
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.
Updated on Friday, February 25, 2022 1:02 PM CST: Updates date of first BA.2 case to Feb. 10 from Feb. 8 due to province's error