COVID-19: BA.2 Omicron variant now dominant in three Saskatchewan cities’ wastewater

Wastewater samples of COVID-19 RNA show the more transmissible BA.2 subvariant of Omicron now comprises most of the detected virus in three cities.

BA.2 accounts for 78.9 per cent of all detected virus samples in Saskatoon, up from 34.1 per cent in the previous reporting period.

The subvariant comprises 81.1 per cent of the virus detected in Prince Albert, increasing from 17.9 per cent. And it makes up 68.6 per cent of the wastewater in North Battleford, increasing from 49.4 per cent.

Read more: COVID-19 still spreading among children, Saskatchewan government data shows

The overall amounts decreased from the previous week, by 74.4 per cent in Saskatoon, 91.8 per cent in Prince Albert and by 56 per cent in North Battleford.

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Markus Brinkmann, a University of Saskatchewan environmental toxicologist who is part of the team that monitors the wastewater, told Global News the overall amounts remain very high.

“We do not see a drop that goes back to background levels in between waves, though we’re still at pretty high readings,” he said.

“And that, to us, also indicates that there is still a pretty high risk of infection.”

Brinkmann said it is important to watch both sets of numbers. He couldn’t account for the decrease in the overall amount while BA.2 increased.

Read more: BA.2 could mean new COVID-19 wave: scientists

“The decrease in viral loads in the wastewater here is certainly indicative of things hopefully easing up a little bit,” he stated, adding it’s still important for people to take precautions when around other people in public areas.

He said the data next week should provide more insight into whether the recent numbers represent a trend — and more insight into what the decreasing overall amount of virus material, coupled with the increasing BA.2 rates, means for how long the current wave will last.

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