What You Need to Know About the New COVID-19 Variant: Omicron BA.2

In the first quarter of 2022, a sub-variant of Omicron BA.2 is becoming the dominant strain of COVID-19, though the number of Covid cases has dropped across North America. In this post, we provide some facts on BA.2 and tell you how to book a test and stop the spread.  

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While COVID-19 has been a large part of our everyday life for the past two years, we have been gradually finding a new normal. However, we should still be weary of new variations of the Covid-19 virus that continue to emerge. 

The Omicron variant emerged in November 2021 and has since spread widely across many countries, eventually outpacing the Delta variant to become dominant around the world. 

As a result, experts have been studying this new, highly transmissible variant in-depth. In the first months of 2022, it was discovered that one of its sub-variants, BA.2, has been causing many COVID cases. The World Health Organization officially declared it dominant worldwide on March 22

In this post, we'll share facts about the new sub-variant, including:

  • Its definition and severity 
  • The worldwide situation regarding the new subvariant 
  • The likelihood that we'll see more variants develop

We will also cover COVID Testing including the RT-PCR Test and the Antigen Test, as well as the purpose of a COVID-19 Certificate. 

Omicron BA.2

Towards the end of 2021, we saw a resurgence in COVID infections worldwide due to Omicron (or BA.1). BA.2 is a sub-variant of Omicron and has many similarities to BA.1. One difference is that BA.2 is 30 to 50% more transmissible than BA.1, and is contributing to the spread of COVID in these first months of 2022. It has spread throughout Asia, Africa, the United States and Europe.

What's Happening Internationally?

Researchers across North America are closely monitoring the evolution and spread of BA.2. The latest CDC reports indicate this new subvariant represents 55% of COVID infections. 

While BA.2 is becoming the dominant strain, the CDC has stated the number of COVID cases has dropped within the last few weeks. Experts say that demographic factors such as the average age of the population in the United States and public health measures is contributing to the decrease in cases. 

How Severe is BA.2?

Fortunately, infections of BA.2 currently seem to be mild and not a great threat to public health. Evidence is showing that BA.2 symptoms aren't more severe than those related to BA.1, especially for vaccinated people and those who have already had a COVID-19 infection. 

As a matter of fact, if you've had a BA.1 infection, you likely have protection against BA.2. This is why BA.2. hasn't been much of a problem in countries that initially saw many cases of BA.1. South Africa is a clear example of this. 

While mortality and hospitalizations due to Omicron have been reported worldwide, ICU admittance, hospital stays and deaths have been significantly lower than previous peaks of this pandemic. 

Compared to previous strains, Omicron developed within a population that had immunity to the virus thanks to vaccines and previous infections. Therefore, any new variants that emerge are less likely to be fatal. 

While these facts may be encouraging, we must also remember that COVID-19 has seen more changes than other respiratory viruses that have been tracked previously, such as the flu. However, like the common cold coronaviruses, we should eventually see a plateau in the transmissibility of new variants of Covid-19. But, it's essential to monitor the virus carefully until that happens.

Will Future Covid-19 Strains Prove More Contagious?

BA.2 has been found to be a natural progression of the Covid virus, alongside previous variants and sub-variants. New strains of the virus will likely continue to emerge. 

However, strains of COVID-19 are mutating and some have randomly emerged with little resemblance to their predecessors. The number of cases would likely rise if any of the new variants were more severe or contagious than previous ones. 

Taking appropriate precautions is the best way to prevent new strains. We can do this by: 

  • Frequently washing our hands 
  • Practicing social distancing during large gatherings 
  • Wearing a face mask in crowded indoor spaces 
  • Getting tested regularly 
  • Understanding and following Covid testing requirements of travel destinations 

By taking an RT-PCR test on a regular basis and reporting the results, we can make it easier to track the evolution of the virus and detect the possibility of a surge in cases. With a population that's regularly tested, governments can take preventative measures before we see higher peaks in cases. 

Which Test Should I Take & How Can I Get Tested?

Which test you should take will depend on whether you plan on traveling soon, to which country, and other factors. All travellers are responsible for understanding the testing requirements of their destinations. Here are the types of Covid-19 tests we offer:

Take Home Testing Kit 

Cost: $40 (tax incl.)

If you don't plan on traveling soon and are not experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms but just want to be safe, you can pick up a Take Home Testing Kit for supervised at-home use, to be used in conjunction with a virtual appointment. Results usually take about 15 minutes.

Rapid Antigen Test

Cost: $40 (tax incl.)

If you're traveling domestically or traveling internationally to some destinations, you can schedule a Rapid Antigen Test at one of our two locations in Ottawa. Be sure to research the testing requirements of your destination. Results typically take about 30 minutes.

Expedited RT-PCR

Cost: $200 (tax incl.)

Some international destinations require a negative RT-PCR test. You can schedule a test at one of our two locations in Ottawa and receive results on the same day. 

Regular RT-PCR

Cost: $165 (tax incl.)

With a regular RT-PCR test, you'll meet the standards for travel to some international destinations. Expect results within 24 to 30 hours. 

Your COVID-19 Certificate 

You may need either a vaccination credential or a negative COVID-19 test depending on your destination. Remember that each country sets its own policies regarding its approved tests and vaccines. 

When you arrive at your destination, you may need a test to confirm you are COVID-free. Airlines will typically require a negative RT-PCR test within a few days of departure. Verify which test you should take with your airline. 

To learn more about safe travel or to schedule your Covid-19 test prior to traveling, contact a COVID travel test location near you.

COVID-19 Rapid Antigen or RT-PCR Test

Whether you're traveling, or require an asymptomatic COVID test, visit COVID Travel Test at one of our two convenient locations today.