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8 times more people in Metro Vancouver have had COVID-19 than confirmed, study estimates

Last Updated Jul 16, 2020 at 6:28 am PST

FILE - Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A study finds eight times more people have likely had COVID-19 in B.C. than confirmed

B.C.'s PHO, health ministers are expected to go over the numbers in a new serology report on Thursday

Authors of the study conclude the numbers still means fewer than one per cent of British Columbians have been infected

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The number of people in British Columbia who have had COVID-19 may be up to eight times higher than the number of cases we have confirmed.

That’s one of the findings of a new study that randomly tested blood samples of almost 900 people in Metro Vancouver in March, and then another, random, similar-sized group in May

The study, conducted by the BC Centre for Disease Control, UBC, and LifeLabs, found a COVID-19 prevalence rate of 0.28 per cent in March and 0.55 in May. If applied to the whole population of B.C., the prevalence rate would put B.C.’s case count at closer to 28,000 than the 3,149 confirmed by officials so far.

Read the report: 

serology 2020.07.13.20153148v1.full

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says the findings aren’t entirely surprising.

“There are more people who were infected with COVID-19 than tested positive, and that’s something we said clearly, especially in the period of March and April when we were focusing our testing program particularly on specific groups, including healthcare workers,” he said, adding the low infection rate has been the direct result of the actions of people in B.C.

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While that means more infections than have been reported, the authors of the study conclude the numbers still means fewer than one per cent of British Columbians have been infected.

“BC has been recognized for its successful control of COVID-19 during the winter-spring 2020,” the study reads. “Early success was attributed in part to timely alerting; sustained media messaging through a single health official; rapid development and deployment of diagnostic testing; and restriction of staff movement between long-term care facilities.”

Dix says the estimated rate of infection in B.C. still shows the province has been successful in flattening the curve.

“This is, as the study suggests, a dual edge question. A low level of transmission, but also, very few people with antibodies to deal with potentially future spikes of COVID-19,” he said, adding this study is the first of its kind in Canada.

Dix and B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry will be going over the numbers at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

-With files from Liza Yuzda