According to some epidemiologists, adopting a better approach towards testing and wastewater surveillance could help detect early signs of new COVID variants in Canada.
As the number of confirmed COVID cases caused by the new XBB.1.5. subvariant continues to rise in Canada, adopting a better approach towards testing and wastewater surveillance could help detect early signs of new strains, according to some epidemiologists.
“To think that we are living in Canada … and yet if you’re sick, you cannot get tested for COVID easily — I think that is just the antithesis of medicine,” Dr. Donald Vinh, a medical microbiologist at the McGill University Health Center in Montreal told Global News.
“We don’t know exactly how much reinfection XXB.1.5. can cause … But if the previous waves have ever been a lesson to us, it’s not to take variants lightly,” Vinh said.
“Every wave that we’ve had has led to an increase in hospitalizations. And even though we can buffer that increase, that’s come at a price to our health-care system. And so … going forward, we should be very aggressive against XXB.1.5. or whatever other variant is emerging,” he added.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) told Global News on Wednesday that it is aware of 21 detections of the XBB.1.5. variant in Canada, but added that proportions and growth rates would not be reported until there is sufficient data.
XBB.1.5., which is a subvariant of Omicron, has been detected in 29 countries to date, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
PHAC did not identify whether it considers this mutation to be a variant of concern, noting 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.
Vinh says that at the moment he’s “perplexed” by Canada’s COVID-19 testing strategy.