Whenever it feels like society is finally putting COVID-19 on the back burner, reports of new variants or outbreaks surface. An example: the “mother of all variants”.

This phrase is a quote from vaccine scientist and author Dr. Peter Hotez.

Hotez was speaking to ABC News when he mentioned the BA 2.12 variant, suggesting the transmission rate is approaching measles levels.

“Have respect for it because it can come and get you,” he said.

Regarding the origin of this variant, experts suspect that it is a descendant of the subvariant of Omicron, BA.2. Thankfully, the variant doesn’t appear to cause a more serious illness just yet, but it appears to be much more contagious.

After a spike in cases across Canada earlier in the year, transmission has fallen sharply in recent months. There are a number of things that could explain this drop, including changes in how COVID-19 reporting is done.

Despite the drop in cases, some experts have suggested that we are indeed still in an ongoing sixth wave of the virus.

The chart below shows the number of tests conducted nationwide as of May 18.

Covid-19 variants

Health Canada

Just over 33,000 COVID-19 tests were conducted, resulting in approximately 2,500 cases, with some provinces not reporting full results for various methodological reasons. That means we don’t really have the full picture of COVID-19 at the national level.

As of May 18, there were over 170,000 new COVID-19 cases in the US. According to second-hand data, there were 6,041 cases in Canada as of May 18. Based on each country’s population, Canadian cases made up a larger percentage of the total population.

While reporting from an American perspective, Hotez touches on something that is likely happening in Canada as well. He told ABC News that people like him do tests at home and tell their doctors, but those reports aren’t counted at the state or federal level, meaning the total is likely higher.

The good news is that there is no evidence that this variant is more serious when it comes to how sick it makes people. The other bright spot is that Canada as a country has a much higher level of vaccination compared to the US.

Canada’s top health official, Dr. Theresa Tam, took to Twitter earlier this week to share some of her concerns.

Many provinces appear determined to continue treating COVID-19 as endemic rather than a pandemic, but as we’ve seen over the past two years, everything can change.

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