Omicron subvariant BA.2 detected in Quebec

Officials in Quebec say they've detected several cases of the BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the province.

Public health says it is wary of the strain because it is harder to detect as it doesn't have many spike mutations and is seemingly more transmissible, allowing it to quickly pass through the community.

"We are closely following the evolution of this new variant," the province's health ministry said.

According to Quebec's public health institute (INSPQ), as of Friday, five cases of BA.2 have been observed in the province.

All of the cases were international travellers who were tested upon arrival in Montreal and whose samples were put through genetic sequencing.

Officials explain 10 per cent of samples in Quebec are sent for this type of more intense testing.

"At this time, this variant has not been shown to have an advantage over BA.1 (also Omicron) in terms of transmissibility, immune evasion or virulence," explains Aurèle Iberto-Mazzali, a spokesperson with the INSPQ. "It is a variant of concern as of December 2021."

Across Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says it has detected more than 100 cases of the subvariant as of Friday, mainly from travellers coming from abroad.

"Vaccination, in combination with public health and individual measures, is key to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants," PHAC points out.

To date, subvariant BA.2, which was first found in November 2021, has been detected in at least 40 countries around the world.

LISTEN ON CJAD 800 RADIO: What do we know about this new COVID-19 variant? Dr. Matthew Oughton, physician in the division of infectious diseases at the Jewish General Hospital, explains

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