COVID-19 variant arrives in B.C.

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — One person in B.C. has tested positive for the COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K.

In a joint statement from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, the two confirmed the infected person lives on Vancouver Island.

“[The person] returned to B.C. from the U.K. on flight AC855 on Dec. 15, 2020, developed symptoms while in quarantine and was immediately tested. Testing confirmed the positive diagnosis on Dec. 19, 2020; a small number of close contacts have been isolated and public health is following up with them daily,” the statement reads.

The variant strain was detected by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control when monitoring travellers in B.C. who may have come from the U.K.

“Whole genome sequencing at the BCCDC identified this as the same as the variant seen in the U.K. Ongoing review may identify additional cases in the coming days.”

British Columbians are being reminded to be vigilant and follow provincial health orders.

“It is important to note 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, 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.”

B.C.’s announcement followed Ontario health officials who confirmed a third case of the variant in the Ottawa region.


Ottawa Public Health Department said the individual is self-isolating, adding they had recently travelled from the U.K. However, they gave no timetable as to when they arrived back in the country.

Ontario health officials also report that the first two people confirmed with the variant strain, a couple in Durham Region, had indeed been in contact with a recent traveller from the U.K.

It was initially reported the pair had no previous exposure or high-risk contacts.

“This further reinforces the need for Ontarians to stay home as much as possible and continue to follow all public health advice, including the province-wide shutdown measures,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health. “This is also an important reminder about the need for arriving international travellers to maintain quarantine for 14 days.”

Canada has a total of four reported cases of the UK COVID-19 variant as of Sunday afternoon.

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