A total of 21 cases of XBB.1.5 COVID subvariant have been detected in Canada as of Wednesday, the country’s public health agency has confirmed.
XBB.1.5 is a sub-lineage of the Omicron subvariant XBB and has been deemed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the “most transmissible” COVID strain so far.
The new subvariant has been detected in 29 countries to date, according to the WHO.
In a statement to Global News, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said that they will continue to “carefully monitor the spread of XBB.”
“Proportions and growth rates will not be reported until there is sufficient data.”
“XBB.1.5 is currently considered to be only detected sporadically. As data rolls in, growth rates can be more accurately estimated,” the agency said.
PHAC did not identify whether it considers this mutation to be a variant of concern but noted a number of complex factors that play into such a decision, including whether scientists and public health officials observe an actual change in the behaviour of the virus.
“The government of Canada has a strong monitoring program in place with the provinces and territories to identify COVID-19 variants in Canada, including the Omicron variant of concern and its sub-lineages,” the agency said in its statement.
The subvariant is now responsible for approximately 70 per cent of new COVID-19 cases in the Northeastern U.S., which represents a massive growth rate since early December, when it accounted for just four per cent of new U.S. COVID cases, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Meanwhile, as fears of fresh variants continue to loom, Canada has announced a new requirement for travellers from China, Hong Kong and Macau.
Starting Jan. 5, Canada will require travellers from these regions to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding flights for the country.
The test must be taken no more than two days before departure.
This comes amid rising global concerns over China’s recent coronavirus surge after the country dropped its “zero-COVID” policy.
— With files from Teresa Wright
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