BC health officials have confirmed the first case of the COVID-19 variant from the UK has now been detected in the province.
In a joint statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said the person lives on Vancouver Island and “returned to BC from the UK on flight AC855 on December 15.”
They “developed symptoms while in quarantine” and were tested, resulting in a positive diagnosis.
“The variant strain was detected by the BC Centre for Disease Control,” the statement said. “Whole genome sequencing at the BCCDC identified this as the same as the variant seen in the UK.”
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The statement 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.”
However, the statement said, studies have suggested that the new variant “can spread more quickly and easily, which is why British Columbians everywhere must continue to be cautious and follow all PHO orders and guidelines, stay close to home, avoid non-essential travel, practice safe, physical distancing and wear a mask when in public indoor spaces.”
News of the detection comes after the federal government said this past week that it was suspending entry into Canada of all commercial and private passenger flights from the UK for 72 hours, effective midnight December 20.
In a follow-up announcement, the government said it had extended this prohibition until January 6, 2021, at 11:59 pm EST.
“These restrictions do not apply to cargo flights, technical stops where passengers do not disembark, action related to the safety of the plane, or where special authorization has been granted by Transport Canada,” a statement said.
According to Health Canada, all travellers who have been in the UK or South Africa within the period of 14 days before the day on which they seek entry into Canada are subject to secondary screening and enhanced measures, including “increased scrutiny of quarantine plans.”