BA.2 Omicron Subvariant Spreads Through Canada

Health authorities in Canada said the highly contagious Omicron sub-variant known as BA.2 is gaining a foothold in the country just as provinces begin lifting pandemic restrictions.

Leading Canadian expert on BA.2 and a professor of Evolutionary virology and mathematical modeling at the University of British Columbia Sarah Otto said that the rise of the sub-variant in Canada “does not necessarily mean a second major Omicron wave will happen, more likely we’ll see a prolonged peak or a shoulder in the Omicron wave.”

Meanwhile, Japanese researchers who led the study on BA.2 argued that it is different enough from BA.1 and a bigger threat to public health, that it should not be considered Omicron but should be given its Greek name.

“Our multi-scale investigations suggest that the risk of BA.2 for global health is potentially higher than BA.1,” wrote the authors.

The study found that BA.2 transmits at 1.4 times the rate of BA.1, replicates more easily in nasal cells and that experiments in hamsters show it is more virulent than BA.1

Doug Manuel, a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and a member of Ontario’s Science Advisory Table,  said that BA.2 virulence compared to the earlier sub-variant is not yet entirely understood.

Ontario, which will drop most pandemic restrictions aside from indoor masks on March 1, would be opening more cautiously than many jurisdictions at a time when the Omicron wave is receding. 

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