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Questions loom over B.C.'s variant numbers as COVID-19 cases continue to spike

Last Updated Apr 7, 2021 at 6:29 am PDT

FILE -- Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at a lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

COVID variants of concern are making up a larger chunk of B.C.'s new cases

Questions are being raised about whether or not the variant problem is actually being under-reported in B.C.

B.C.'s top doctor expects variant cases to continue rising

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – B.C.’s top doctor says cases of COVID-19 variants of concern are worrying, but there are questions about whether or not the problem is even worse than what the province is disclosing.

The numbers released on Tuesday show there were 1,068 new cases, once again sitting near record highs for daily infections.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix’s briefings have become slightly more combative, as reporters press for more detailed and current data. On Tuesday, Henry was asked about infection rates for the P1 variant, first identified in Brazil, in young people.

“The BCCDC dashboard does have age groups — we get that weekly in a number of different ways,” Henry said when asked for the breakdown, with a reporter noting current information on that matter was not publicly available.

“I’m not sure what you want to be honest,” Henry said, adding she didn’t have the “age breakdown in front of me” but that the average age of those infected with the P1 variant “is younger.”

“The average age of hospitalization is still in the 60s but we are seeing increasing numbers of young people, as well,” Henry added.

The province confirmed 207 new variant cases on Tuesday, with B.C.’s total now rising to 3,766 (only 266 of which are active).

“So, that’s about three per cent of our active cases right now,” Henry said.

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According to the health minister, the Fraser Health region is seeing more cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, while Vancouver Coastal is having to deal with more P1 cases.

“Significantly, over 90 per cent of the cases in Fraser Health are in fact the B.1.1.7 variant. The median age today is 30 in the case of the Brazilian variants, 33 overall of all the variants, and 35 in the U.K. variant,” Dix said, citing the report from April 6, 2021.

A report in the Vancouver Sun citing leaked information from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control suggests the province is actually undercounting variants of concern drastically.

The paper reports that presumptive variant cases made up at least 40 per cent of all positive COVID-19 cases as of March 27. That’s double the estimate given by the province just two days before, and this is before the Easter long weekend.