Canada has detected its first case of coronavirus infection involving the highly mutated BA.2.86 variant of Omicron. This case has been detected in an individual residing in British Columbia who has not travelled beyond the Pacific province, according to health officials’ announcement on Tuesday.
The infected person is currently not hospitalized, and the presence of the BA.2.86 variant has not altered the risk level for the people of British Columbia. In a joint statement, the province’s top health authority, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Health Minister Adrian Dix, affirmed that the appearance of the BA.2.86 variant in Canada and the province was a foreseeable development. They underlined that COVID-19 is persistently spreading on a global scale and the virus is continually adapting.
Detected in Denmark just the previous month, the BA.2.86 lineage exhibits over 35 mutations in crucial segments of the virus when compared to the XBB.1.5 variant that dominated the scene for most of 2023. Apart from Canada, the United States, Switzerland, and Israel have also documented instances of this novel variant.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated last week that the BA.2.86 variant might possess a greater ability to cause infection in individuals who have previously contracted COVID-19 or have been administered preventive vaccines.
While scientists underscore the importance of monitoring the BA.2.86 variant, they said that it is improbable for it to trigger a catastrophic surge of severe illness and fatalities. This is owing to the immune defenses that have been established globally through vaccinations and prior infections.
Canadian health authorities have observed a rise in COVID-19 cases over recent weeks, although viral activity remains comparatively low, as reported in Health Canada’s weekly update earlier.