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B.C. records first case of South African COVID-19 variant

Last Updated Jan 14, 2021 at 3:48 pm PDT


B.C. has recorded its first case of the South African COVID-19 variant, in addition to new U.K. variant

Dr. Bonnie Henry says COVID-19 variants are concerning but notes testing and research continues to learn more

News of the new variants in B.C. came as the province reported 536 new COVID-19 cases

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – B.C. has recorded its first case of the COVID-19 virus variant from South Africa.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced on Thursday that the case has been identified in a person who has not travelled to South Africa recently. The person is also not believed to have had contact with a traveller.

“We are still investigating where this person might have contracted this virus and that will continue. It is of course concerning that we don’t know where this arose, however, at the moment, it does not appear to have spread in the community beyond the person that we’ve identified,” she said.

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“As you know, there are a number of COVID-19 variants that have arisen around the world that have caused increased concern. We are paying close attention. We have been screening, both doing random samples of some of the isolates that have arisen and screening as well on people who have travelled,” Henry explained.

This comes as B.C. reported a total of four cases of the variant first identified in the U.K. — of these cases, three are linked to one traveller while the fourth case is linked to a separate traveller.

“There are no other contacts and we don’t believe that this has spread at all from these four cases,” Henry said.

The fourth case of the U.K. variant and the new case of the South African variant were both identified in people in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

“As you know, we do have concerns that some of these variants — particularly in the U.K. — may allow the virus to spread more easily. And that is why it is important for us to continue to monitor and to do the whole genome sequencing that we’ve been doing in terms of surveillance for these variants,” B.C.’s top doctor said, adding it’s critical British Columbians do their part to slow the spread of the coronavirus by limiting contacts, practicing good personal hygiene, and getting tested when feeling unwell.

News of the new variant cases came as the province reported 536 new infections. Seven additional deaths have been linked to the virus. To date, 1,038 people have died as a result of COVID-19.

Henry also took some time to admonish racist behaviour that’s come up in B.C. amid the pandemic, namely on Vancouver Island where some Indigenous people have been targeted.