British Columbia Sun

COVID-19: B.C. records first case of variant strain detected in U.K.

According to a statement issued Sunday by B.C. health officials, the individual returned from the United Kingdom on AC 855 on Dec. 15, 2020 and developed symptoms while in quarantine.

A variant strain of COVID-19 first detected in the United Kingdom has been identified in a Vancouver Island resident who returned from Europe earlier this month.

It is the first confirmed case of the variant strain appearing in British Columbia, and officials say more could soon surface as testing results are reviewed.

COVID-19: B.C. records first case of variant strain detected in U.K.

According to a statement issued Sunday by B.C. health officials, the individual returned from the United Kingdom on AC 855 on Dec. 15, 2020 and developed symptoms while in quarantine. The individual was immediately tested and the positive diagnosis was confirmed on Dec. 19.

“A small number of close contacts have been isolated and public health is following up with them daily,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix in a joint statement.

AC 855 on Dec. 15 is included on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s list of flight exposures. Rows 34 to 40 are included in the exposure notice.

Just over a week ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada would be banning inbound flights from the U.K. beginning Dec. 21 for 72 hours in an effort to keep the new strain of the virus out of the country. That ban was later extended until Jan. 6, 2021.

While there is no evidence to prove the new variant is more likely to cause severe illness or that the current approved vaccines are less effective against the new strain, health officials warn that the new variant is more easily transmittable.

“However, studies suggest the COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K. 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,” the statement read.

“All British Columbians have to remember the virus spreads quickly but shows up slowly. By staying local, avoiding all non-essential travel and using our layers of protection, we can reduce the potential for a surge in new cases and keep our communities and loved ones safe.”

Officials continue to advise against travelling outside of the region, and are encouraging people to stay local and stay home.

The first cases of the U.K. strain were reported on Saturday, in a couple from Ontario’s Durham Region, just east of Toronto. The couple, who had not travelled recently, had been in contact with someone who had recently returned from the U.K.

On Sunday, another case of the new strain was also detected in an individual in the Ottawa region.

As of the latest figures shared on Dec. 24, there are 8,865 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C.

Of those, 341 were in hospital, 78 of which are in intensive care. To date, 808 British Columbians have died form the virus, and still 9,732 are under public health monitoring following exposure to a positive case.

So far, 37,784 people have recovered from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit B.C.

–with files from the Canadian Press

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