Canada has reported its inaugural case of coronavirus infection attributed to the highly mutated BA.2.86 variant of Omicron. The individual, located in British Columbia, had not ventured outside the Pacific province, according to health officials on Tuesday.
The infected person is presently not hospitalized, and the emergence of the BA.2.86 virus has not altered the risk level for residents of British Columbia, as emphasized by the province’s top doctor, Bonnie Henry, and Health Minister Adrian Dix in a joint statement.
In their statement, Henry and Dix stated, “The appearance of BA.2.86 in Canada and our province was not entirely unexpected. COVID-19 continues its global spread, and the virus is continually evolving.”
The BA.2.86 lineage, initially detected in Denmark just last month, boasts over 35 mutations in critical sections of the virus when compared to XBB.1.5, the dominant variant during most of 2023. The United States, Switzerland, and Israel have also confirmed cases involving this new variant.
Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the BA.2.86 variant may possess a heightened ability to infect individuals who have previously contracted COVID-19 or have received vaccination.
While scientists stress the importance of monitoring BA.2.86, they believe it is unlikely to trigger a devastating surge in severe illness and fatalities. This is due to the global buildup of immune defenses resulting from widespread vaccination and previous infections.
Canadian health authorities have reported a recent increase in COVID-19 infections, although overall virus activity remains relatively low, as indicated by Health Canada in a weekly update on Tuesday