Federal health officials have confirmed that the new, more infectious strain of COVID-19 detected in the UK has not yet made its way to Canada.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, said that the new variant of the virus has not been found on Canadian soil.
“To date, Canada has not identified the new variant of the coronavirus under investigation in the United Kingdom,” Tam said. “We will of course inform people as this goes along.”
On Sunday, the country banned all flights entering Canada from the United Kingdom, after British health officials identified a new variant of the virus that may be up to 70% more infectious than the original strain.
While the variant is transmitted faster, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there is currently no evidence that the new strain is deadlier or causes more severe illness. There is also no evidence to suggest that the vaccine is any less effective against the mutation.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said that enhanced COVID-19 screening has been put in place at all Canadian airports and points of entry for travellers who may be arriving from the UK indirectly.
The government has also “dramatically” scaled up the federal public health presence at the border, Blair said. Almost 200 public health officers have now been deployed to various points of entry across Canada.
“Please don’t plan to travel internationally unless it’s for essential purposes,” said Patty Hajdu, the Minister of Health.
According to Blair, only 1.8% of COVID-19 cases in Canada can be attributed to international travel. The remaining 98.2% of transmissions are due to community spread. These statistics, he says, are due to the effectiveness of Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine order.
“Currently, Canada remains on a trajectory for an even stronger resurgence [of COVID-19] over the next two months. This is a perilous time.” Tam said. “Public health measures to reduce infection rates only work if we all adhere to them to the best of our ability.”
“Infections remain very high in many areas of the country.”
To date, Canada has seen 515,314 COVID-19 cases and 14,332 deaths.