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New COVID-19 strain not found in Canada, says top doctor

Last Updated Dec 22, 2020 at 1:15 pm PST

FILE - Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday, September 8, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Dr. Theresa Tam says the new variant of COVID-19 hasn't been detected in Canada

Public Safety Minister says the federal government is doing enough at the border to protect Canadians from COVID-19

MONTREAL — The new variant of COVID-19 has not been detected in Canada, says the country’s top doctor.

Canada suspended flights from the U.K. at midnight on Dec. 21 after a new variant of COVID-19 was discovered in that country.

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“To date, Canada has not identified the new variant of the coronavirus under investigation in the United Kingdom,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu says “the whole research community” is working on the newly detected strain, which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said appears to spread much more easily.

B.C.’s health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also said Monday the new virus strain hadn’t been detected in the province or Canada, but there is still more to learn about it.

“The evidence has shown that so far, it does not seem to increase the severity of illness. However, it does seem to mean that the virus can transmit more easily,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said, adding this virus mutates slowly compared to others.

Ottawa doing enough at border, says minister

Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the federal government is doing enough at the border to protect Canadians from COVID-19.

Blair told reporters Canada’s border controls are some of the strictest in the world and that more than 98 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the country are the result of community transmission — not international travel.

The minister’s comments followed criticism from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who said Monday that Ottawa needed to do more to prevent travellers from bringing the novel coronavirus into the country.

Ford hit the federal government again Tuesday on the issue, telling reporters that Canada must require that travellers obtain a negative COVID-19 test before they arrive on Canadian soil.

Watch the full update: