Coronavirus Canada Updates: 18 variant COVID-19 cases now confirmed, 1 in BC Interio

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Coronavirus: Ontario health minister Christine Elliott on when province could enter Stage 1 of reopening
Coronavirus: Ontario health minister Christine Elliott on when province could enter Stage 1 of reopening

A travel-related case of the U.K.-mutated variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the Interior Health region.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday there has now been 18 cases of mutated COVID-19 found in BC. Seven U.K. cases were confirmed over the weekend.

There have now been 14 confirmed cases of the U.K. variant found in the province, all linked to travel or close contacts of travel.

There have also been four South Africa variant cases found in the province. While one of those cases was a close contact of a traveller, the other three are community spread cases. All South African cases are in the Lower Mainland.

Dr. Henry said the province is working to ramp up testing capability for the variants from the current 500-600 per day to 700-1,000.

“We are not seeing a lot of it in our community, despite the surveillance we are doing,” she said, adding the variants are still “a concern” for health authorities.

Henry pointed to rapid spread of the variants in other countries. Early studies into both strains indicate they are much more contagious than the original COVID-19.

“That is what we are worried about right now, it is hard to know what is going to happen in the next little while,” she said.

The BC CDC has completed 11,000 full-genome tests in search of mutated COVID-19 variants so far. Henry said each test takes several days to complete, so its not possible to test every sample.

Right now random samples from high-case load areas and outbreaks are being tested for the variant, in addition to anyone who tests positive after travel. None of the variants have shown they will disrupt vaccination programs at this point.

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