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Canada marks one year of COVID-19 as new variant cases rise

Last Updated Jan 25, 2021 at 6:33 am PDT

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, green, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. (NIAID-RML via AP)

Monday marks one year since Canada reported its first likely case of COVID-19, in Ontario

Provinces are now trying to figure out how to deal with variants of the coronavirus, with case numbers rising

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Monday marks the anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 identified in Canada.

After a year of living with the pandemic, we are now dealing with the increasing spread of new, more contagious variants.

The B.C. government quietly released new numbers for coronavirus variants Friday, confirming six cases of the variant initially identified in the U.K. and three cases of the one first found in South Africa, up from four and one.

These variants — and one first detected in Brazil — transmit far more easily than what we are now calling the common strain of the virus.

Data from the U.K. suggests its variant is 50 per cent more transmissible person-to-person than the common strain.

The first year

It was one year ago Monday that Canada had its first likely case of a new coronavirus.

“So we’re here to announce our first presumptive positive case of novel coronavirus that we were just made aware of earlier today,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020.

“All Ontarians should take comfort in knowing that our public health officials and skilled health care providers are bringing their considerable knowledge, skills, and experience to respond to this emerging situation,” Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot added.

That first case involved a man in his 50s who was hospitalized in Toronto. He had come home from Wuhan, China where the virus outbreak originated.

B.C.’s first case didn’t come until a few days later, on Jan. 28, when a Metro Vancouver man in his 40s, who had also returned from Wuhan, tested positive.

“There’s been a small number of people around the province who have been tested for this novel coronavirus and we have a very low threshold for that testing, so we’re doing it out of an abundance of caution for a variety of people and there have been a number of tests that have been done. This is the first one that has been positive,” B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said on that day.

To date, Canada has recorded more than 700,000 cases of COVID-19. In the span of a year, more than 19,000 deaths have been linked to the virus in this country.

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In the days since the first case of the coronavirus was detected in Canada, the country has gone through difficult periods of time. The pandemic saw mass job impacts, as lockdowns were brought in and industries struggled to keep their doors open due to a lack of business and revenue.

The travel industry also took a hit, with Canada moving to limit flights and taking the extraordinary step to close the land border with the U.S. to all non-essential traffic in March.

“First, we will be denying entry to Canada to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on March 16 of the temporary measure. “This measure will carve out some designated exceptions including for air crews, diplomats, immediate family members of Canadian citizens, and, at this time, U.S. citizens.”

The travel restrictions would evolve over the course of the year, but the closure of the Canada-U.S. border has been extended several times, with the only indication for reopening being that the COVID-19 situation in America needs to improve.