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A COVID-19 Delta subvariant known as 'Delta Plus'—which is the unofficial name— is being investigated as it's made its way into Canada from the U.K.
Although it is not designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization, experts say this is a variant of interest, but don't know if it is more dangerous given how new it is.
Some early data suggests that it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant, but the relative difference would not be as large as between the Delta variant and other COVID-19 variants. However, the Delta Plus variant does not seem to cause more clinically severe infections.Patrick Saunders-Hastings, epidemiologist and risk scientist
Could Delta Plus cause a new surge in Canada?
Although the subvariant may be more transmissible, there is not sufficient data to suggest to determine if it will cause a new surge in Canada relative to the ongoing transmission added Saunders-Hastings.
As the governments continue to observe and watch the subvariant's behaviour, Saunders-Hastings said "the current thought is that vaccines will continue to be effective, but we don't have enough info yet."
Anna Banerji, associate professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health says that "it will surge if the mutation gives it an advantage over the original delta, like it is more infectious or more serious. If it is not more infectious, then it may not be of concern."
The Public Health Agency of Canada stated they are aware of 12 detections of Delta Plus in the national genomic surveillance database and international studies have started to research more.
"There is some early evidence of slightly increased transmission compared to other Delta lineages, but currently there is no evidence in the Canadian or international data to suggest that this lineage causes more severe disease or renders the currently approved vaccines any less effective, " said Eric Morrissette, Chief of Media Relations of Health Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada.
The government is working with the provinces and territories, as well as the Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) to research and detect known and emerging variants of concern.
"While the impact of all variants continues to be monitored in Canada, the Government knows that vaccination, in combination with public health and individual measures, is working to reduce the spread of COVID-19," said Morrissette. "Human behaviour can be as strong an influence on the growth of a variant as biological transmission advantage alone."