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How to detect Omicron: Know all about the new strain of COVID in Canada

by Julio Santos December 17, 2021

The fight against coronavirus continues with the arrival of the new strain of COVID in Canada.

First, the Delta variant kept experts on their toes as researchers discovered a 108 % increased risk for hospitalization, 235 % increased risk for ICU admission, and increased the risk for death by 133 % compared to the original strain in Canada. The 4th wave of COVID in Canada also showed the need to do better with vaccination.

woman putting on a face mask

The World Health Organisation says this Omicron variant is spreading faster than any other variant the world has seen. Thus, many countries are making drastic efforts to curb the spread. Keep reading and know all about the new strain of COVID in Canada and the effects it’ll have on the population.

Background 

South Africa notified the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24, 2021, that a new SARS-CoV-2 variant, B.1.1.529 (Omicron), had been discoveredB.1.1.529 was initially discovered in specimens taken in Botswana on November 11, 2021, and in South Africa on November 14, 2021. Since then, South Africa has discovered B.1.1.529 in samples taken on November 8, 2021.

microscopic virus

This does not mean that the first case was in South Africa or that the mutation started there. The country was just the first to identify it. In fact, many scientists believe the variant has been around for months in Europe.

The first incidence of B.1.1.529 was reported in the United States on December 1, 2021, in a person returning from a trip to South Africa. On December 2, 2021, a second case was reported in an individual with no prior overseas travel history who similarly attended a conference in the days leading up to symptom start.

The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) met on November 26, 2021, to examine B.1.1.529. The TAG-VE recommended that this variant be identified as a Variant of Concern (VOC). WHO did so and named it Omicron.

Omicron in Canada

Since South African scientists first discovered the variant, it is now found in over 77 countries worldwide, and Canada is not left out. The rapidly increasing number of new cases has seen Canada discover over 80 cases. The government is now implementing new policies to see borders shut against travellers from some countries with confirmed Omicron cases.

covid stats on a screen

According to CTV News, Ontario has urged government employees who began gradually returning to their workplaces in November to return to working from home at least until early February. To fight Omicron infections, authorities in Kingston have already started imposing certain restrictions to forestall the spread. A temporary order announced on Monday restricts gatherings to 5 or fewer people. Restaurants are not expected to permit indoor dining after 10 p.m.

Following the recent guidance from health officials, the provincial capital of Toronto, which employs approximately 25 % of the city's workforce, said its workers would continue to work remotely. Bank of Nova Scotia, Canada's third-largest lender, has also moved to postpone an earlier plan for remote workers to come to the company's headquarters beginning Jan. 17.

The Chief Health Officer, Teresa Tam, recently told the press that the surge in the number of cases seen in Ontario would soon be found in other parts of Canada.

How Is Omicron Different?

female doctor looking at chart

The Omicron variant is a mutated form of COVID-19. It is said to have 32 spike mutations with an S-gene dropout. The variant also has many spike deletions and spike proteins with at least 30 amino acid substitutions, three deletions, and one insertion.

Based on what was learned from other variants, the location of the mutation on the genome, and structural modelling, scientists believe these mutations might affect how the virus behaves and spreads. It might also affect the treatment and immune escape. The variant has already been shown to spread four times faster than the Delta variant. 

How to protect yourself from the new strain of COVID in Canada

In the wake of this variant, it is important to revise safety precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hand hygiene, physical distancing, and wearing a mask are still relevant.

It is good news that the vaccine still provides protection from the virus, by reducing the risk of hospitalization and severe illnesses. Health experts have recommended a booster dose as it has been shown to protect against the new strain of COVID in Canada significantly.

How to detect the Omicron variant

virus sample

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is carried out on a swab sample to detect what type of COVID-19 one has.

On the other hand, one of the best and most efficient ways to detect the Omicron variant is to take a rapid antigen test. These tests take less than 30 minutes to yield the results and can be applied at home. The manufacturer Boson has expressed that the rapid COVID tests are able to detect the Omicron variant with a high rate of efficiency. Health Canada has approved these rapid tests for the detection of the new strain of COVID in Canada, as it’s one of the most popular methods amongst government officials from around the world

You can purchase one of MyZone Test Kits and get it delivered to your home or any location in Canada and the US. Take the test and stay safe. 

What to expect of the Omicron variant

mother putting on mask on kid

So far, it is difficult to say if the symptoms are worse with the Omicron variant, but most infected people have described mild symptoms, and they have only been a few deaths. These coronavirus variant symptoms are still similar, but most seem to have preserved their sense of taste and smell.

The World Health Organisation has said that while the Omicron variant is a variant of concern and it should not call for panic. Remember to adhere to the regular COVID-19 guidelines to stay safe and protect your loved ones. 

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