The newest subvariant of COVID-19 has not been officially reported in London, but officials are working under the assumption it is already here.
Middlesex-London Health Unit has yet to record a case of the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, also known as Kraken. However, medical officer of health Dr. Alex Summers says it is only a matter of time until a case is on the books.
“The worry about this XBB.1.5 is that it is more infectious than previous subvariants and variants,” said Summers, adding this means it can transmit more easily.
Summers says the new variant will likely account for a quarter of all COVID-19 cases in Ontario by the end of next week.
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As the variant spreads across the province, Summers says people must continue to take precautions.
“We need to continue to be vigilant and remind ourselves that COVID is here to stay,” says Summers. “We’re cresting upwards a little bit, although it’s not accelerating rapidly at this point.”
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The top doctor says the best way to respond is by staying up to date on the latest available COVID-19 vaccination and flu shot, wearing masks in crowded places during the winter and following basic hygiene principles like washing hands.
While the newest variant is more infectious, Summers says it is unlikely that lockdowns like those at the outset of the pandemic in 2020 or in the spring of 2021 will ever happen again due to COVID-19.
“The only way that could happen is if we got a new variant that was so different from the original strain of COVID that it was essentially a brand new virus to our population,” Summers said.
500 deaths recorded in area
Middlesex County recently recorded its 500th death attributed to COVID-19. The health unit says they recorded the death sometime in the first week of January, although the actual date of the death could have happened in December.
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Since the first death in Middlesex County in late March 2020, there have been 513 pandemic-related deaths recorded. The number of fatalities attributed to COVID-19 has risen every year.
There were 105 COVID-19 deaths in 2020, 153 in 2021 and 249 in 2022. The health unit has recorded six deaths so far in 2023.
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