A new strain of the virus that causes COVID-19, first discovered earlier this month in Britain, has been detected in one patient in British Columbia and another in Ontario, provincial health officials said Sunday. The new cases bring Canada’s total to four.
The variant has also been detected in several other countries, including Denmark, Belgium, France, Australia and the Netherlands.
B.C. is the latest province to report a case of the new variant. In a statement issued Sunday afternoon, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the case involved a person who flew from Britain on Dec. 15.
“B.C. continues to support the Canada-wide travel ban on all flights arriving from the U.K. until Jan. 6, 2021, and urges all British Columbians to continue to avoid all non-essential travel to keep people and communities safe,” she said in the statement.
Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, also announced three cases in Ontario in two separate statements over the weekend. The first news release, on Saturday, said the strain of COVID-19 was identified in a couple from Durham Region, just east of Toronto.
A second statement issued Sunday afternoon said a third case had been reported in Ottawa in someone who had recently travelled from the U.K. It also said new links had been found to the first two cases of the new variant.
“Since the initial reporting of the first two cases of the variant on Dec. 26, 2020, additional investigation and follow-up case and contact management has revealed that the couple had indeed been in contact with a recent traveller from the U.K., which is new information not provided in earlier interviews. The cases and contacts have been informed and are now in self-isolation as per public health protocols,” the statement said.
“It is critically important that individuals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 provide all history of contacts and contact information to their public health unit. This is crucial to the prevention and control of this infection.”
Provincial health officials say modelling and epidemiological studies suggest the variant can spread more easily and faster than the original version of the novel coronavirus — but is not believed to be more deadly.
“While early data suggests that these new variants may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that they cause more severe disease or have any impact on antibody response or vaccine effectiveness,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said.