COVID-19 UK variant "not yet" spreading widely in BC: Dr. Henry

Dec 29 2020, 5:44 pm

BC health officials say they are carefully monitoring the transmission of the COVID-19 UK variant but that it is “not yet” circulating widely in the province.

The first case of the COVID-19 variant from the UK was announced in BC on December 27 and was linked to a BC resident who returned from the UK on flight AC855 on December 15.

In a Tuesday afternoon update, Dr. Bonnie Henry said officials in BC and other provinces — including Alberta and Ontario, where the variant has been detected — have been conducting whole-genome sequencing in order to “see if we can pick up cases in the community.”

“So far, we’re just seeing a few of them here and there. And all of them, so far, have been linked to travel to the UK,” noted Henry.

“That tells us that it probably is not spreading widely right now, and it tells us the importance of … people not [only] coming in from the UK but also everybody who is coming in from another country, bringing a potentially different virus with them or another variant with them, [needing] to adhere to the federal quarantine for 14 days and to be tested if they develop symptoms,” she said.

“And it’s not yet circulating widely, so we want to keep it down and prevent transmission here in BC so that we can protect people with the vaccine and hopefully save lives,” she said.

Henry added that there are “a number of other isolates … the tests that were done in the past number of weeks in people who came from or through the UK, and those are going through whole-genome sequencing as well, and it may well be that we will identify additional people who have this variant who are here in BC now.”

In a December 27 statement, the BC government noted that there “is no evidence that the new COVID-19 variant is more likely to cause severe illness, nor is there evidence to suggest the Health Canada-approved vaccines will be any less effective against the new variant.”

Henry said that the virus does seem to be “more infectious” and officials are watching developments carefully.

“Right now, the really important thing that we all need to do is to keep doing those things we know to stop the transmission of this virus. This virus is even more infectious potentially with this variant, so it means we have to be even more adherent,” stated Henry.

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