B.C. confirms first COVID-19 U.K. variant case as Ontario detects third case

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      The U.K. mutation of COVID-19 has been found in B.C., on the same day that the third case in Ontario has been detected.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix issued a joint statement today (December 27) to announce that the province’s first confirmed case of the U.K. variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed.

      The individual, who lives in the Island Health region, had returned to B.C. from the U.K. on flight AC855 on December 15.

      This person developed symptoms while in quarantine, was immediately tested, and received a positive diagnosis on December 19.

      A small number of close contacts have been isolated and are being monitored by public health.

      According to the statement from Henry and Dix, more cases may be identified in the coming days.

      "It is important to note there is no evidence that the new COVID-19 variant is more likely to cause severe illness, nor is there evidence to suggest the Health Canada-approved vaccines will be any less effective against the new variant,” the statement from Henry and Dix states.

      "However, studies suggest the COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K. can spread more quickly and easily, which is why British Columbians everywhere must continue to be cautious and follow all PHO orders and guidelines, stay close to home, avoid non-essential travel, practice safe, physical distancing and wear a mask when in public indoor spaces”.

      Meanwhile, the Ontario Health Ministry confirmed its third case of the COVID-19 variant in the province today, this time in Ottawa. The person had recently travelled to the U.K. and returned to Canada on December 19.

      Canada’s first case of the U.K. variant was confirmed in a couple in Ontario’s Durham region on December 26. Although the Ontario Health Ministry had previously stated that the couple has no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts, Ontario's Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe clarified today that the couple has since been found to have been in contact with a traveller from the U.K. 

      After a temporary suspension of all flights arriving in Canada from the U.K. for 72 hours starting on December 20, Canada extended the suspension until January 6.

      British officials believe the U.K. COVID-19 variant emerged in September and circulated at low levels initially. Positivity rates are increasing sharply in parts of England, with London reporting the highest number of people testing positive.

      U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has since imposed a lockdown on London and most of southeast England in a bid to cut off the capital and surrounding area from the rest of the country.

      This mutated strain has also been detected in Spain, Sweden, Japan, France, Belgium, Australia, and the Netherlands.

      In addition, a second variant was detected in South Africa, concentrated in the country’s south and southeast regions, and two cases of this variant had been detected in the U.K. on December 23.

      With files from NOW Toronto.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.