Health officials in British Columbia say that more than three dozen cases of a new COVID-19 variant have been detected in the province.
The Ministry of Health tells Daily Hive that as of April 4, there had been 39 cases of the B.1.617 COVID-19 lineage in BC.
“At the time, B.1.617 had not been identified as a variant of concern or variant under investigation,” a spokesperson explains.
Health officials now say that they’re considering it a “variant of interest.”
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical officer of health, addressed the variant of concern earlier this week.
The new “double mutant” COVID-19 strain emerged in India in late March, and it contains mutations seen in two other existing variant strains. There’s speculation about whether the variant is fuelling a new wave of infection in India, although Canada still considers the strain a “variant of interest” rather than a “variant of concern,” Tam said.
India saw more than 500,000 new COVID-19 cases during the week of April 12, according to the World Health Organization. It’s seen nearly 16 million total cases over the course of the pandemic — the second highest total in the world behind only the United States.
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Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed the variant of interest during Thursday’s press conference, stressing that every case in BC is followed and contact traced.
“We have seen it here in about 40 cases at different times over the last month and a half or two months,” she explains. “A number of them were directly related to travel from India and others were in people that we did not link to travel from India.”
Henry says that at this point in time, they’re trying to contain it and there’s no “indication of widespread of that variant.”
She also commented on the new measure from the federal government banning flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days.
“We are very supportive of this move by the federal government, it’s something that we’ve been advising on nationally as well,” Henry explained. “We’re struggling in our third wave across the country right now. Anything that we can do that stops further introductions into the country is really, really important.”
With files from Megan Devlin