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Omicron wave hit Manitoba hardest: infectious disease researcher

An infectious disease researcher estimates up to 82 per cent of Manitoba’s population caught the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Tara Moriarty, who is an associate professor at the University of Toronto, based the figure on data that indicated Omicron spread faster in Manitoba than in any other province or territory.

“People were infected very rapidly. There was a very steep early peak and also testing has been per capita very low in Manitoba. Testing for the scale of the epidemic has been very low, “ Moriarty told CTV News.

Moriarty believes many infections caused by the Omicron variant were not included in the Manitoba government’s official COVID infection counts.

“There were a lot of infections that flew under the radar, and because there is so much less testing, simply by looking at the reported cases, it was hard to tell just how fast that early wave was,” Moriarty said.

A spokesperson for the Manitoba government told CTV that it could not comment on Moriarty’s analysis without seeing the methodology used to generate the data. The province’s own estimation is that between 45 and 50 per cent of the total population have contracted COVID-19 and that those figures are not broken down according to variants.

Moriarty estimated that about ten to 15 per cent of Manitobans had been infected with COVID-19 before the appearance of the Omicron variant.

As far as Manitobans’ continuing susceptibility to COVID goes, Moriarty adopted a cautionary tone. Based on Omicron infection rates, her data shows anywhere from zero to 27 per cent of Manitobans in the 40-plus age category are susceptible to Omicron. In other provinces, the figure is as high as 52 per cent.

She said that while booster shot uptake has limited the percentage of the population that can be infected, if booster prevalence declines, infections will rise. She pointed to data indicating this trend generated in Ontario and the United Kingdom.

-With files from CTV’s Maralee Caruso Top Stories

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