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Epidemiologist says B.C. lack of variant data can lead to problematic third wave

Last Updated Apr 11, 2021 at 3:10 pm PDT

A lab assistant takes the seal of Covid-19 test assay plates to prepare for sequencing at the Wellcome Sanger Institute that is operated by Genome Research in Cambridge, Thursday, March 4, 2021.Cambridge University microbiologist Sharon Peacock understood that genomic sequencing would be crucial in tracking the coronavirus, controlling outbreaks and developing vaccines, so she began working with colleagues around the country to put together a plan when there were just 84 confirmed cases in the country. The initiative helped make Britain a world leader in rapidly analyzing the genetic material from large numbers of COVID-19 infections, generating more than 40% of the genomic sequences identified to date.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

An epidemiologist says B.C. is falling behind other provinces in the handling of the pandemic

He says health officials lack of reporting on variant data is leading to a third wave

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — With variants of concern continuing to pop up in our province, one epidemiologist says the province’s lack of transparency with data on COVID variants is leading to the surge.

Compared to other provinces tracking variants of concern, Jean-Paul Soucy, the co-founder of the COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group, says B.C. is lagging behind.

“For B.C. we’ve really seen very limited information in terms of the variants of concern.

“They set up for whole-genome sequencing so they can tell which variants are specifically — and we’re not seeing those results until those sequencing numbers come back. And over the last couple of months, it really has not been clear in B.C., how much they’re screening. What percentage of cases are being screened for variants of concern? And then what percentage of those cases that do screen positive for varients then go for whole-genome sequencing,” he explains.

He says compared to Ontario, or Quebec, the public and epidemiologists, are in the dark when looking for information about the variants progress in B.C.

Soucy explains if B.C. had gotten ahead of the curve with implementing restrictions, we would be in a much better position in the fight against the virus.

“We just implemented [COVID measures] too late.”

Whistler has nearly 200 of 877 confirmed cases of the P1 Brazil variant and he says it isn’t surprising.

However, Soucy says British Columbians should keep in mind significant transmission is being recorded around in the world, and for all we know, even more, dangerous variants can be emerging in areas of really high transmission.

“So I think that we do have to remember that even if these measures came in too late to keep out these variants that we’re struggling with now, they may very well keep out other variants in the future that we’re not even aware of yet. So I don’t think that this is a useless program by any means.”