Canada extends U.K. flight ban as second COVID-19 mutation found in South Africa

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      Both Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam and the Canadian government issued news releases today (December 24) to address virus mutations detected in the U.K. and South Africa.

      The federal government stated that the U.K. variant has been identified in areas with high incidence of COVID-19.

      In addition, Canada is also monitoring the genetic variant that’s been identified in South Africa, which shares one of the same mutations in the U.K. variant.

      “While early data suggest that these new variants may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe disease symptoms or have any impact on antibody response,” the government news release states. “More research is required to confirm these findings.”

      On December 23, the U.K. detected two cases of the South African variant in the U.K. among contacts of people who travelled to South Africa.

      Canada has not yet announced a suspension on flights from South Africa.

      The Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory is analyzing Canadian cases of COVID-19 and genomic databases to determine if these variants have been in Canada. After an analysis of over 25,000 virus samples, none have yet been found.

      The federal government previously suspended all flights from the U.K. from midnight on December 20 for a 72-hour period.

      However, Canada has since extended this ban on U.K. flights (excluding cargo flights) until midnight on January 6.

      All travellers who have been to the U.K. or South Africa within 14 days before the date that they are seeking entry into Canada will have to undergo a secondary screening with enhanced measures, including increased examination of quarantine plans.

      The government and the Public Health Agency of Canada is advising against all non-essential travel out of Canada and to take extra precautions if such travel is necessary to the U.K. or South Africa.

      So far, there isn’t any evidence that these variants might affect the effectiveness of the current vaccines.

      Meanwhile, news reports today state that the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had detected another variant in Nigeria that appears to be different from the U.K. and South Africa strains. 

      Dr. Tam stated that as of today, there have been 528,354 COVID-19 cases, including 14,597 deaths, reported in Canada since the start of the pandemic.

      Currently, there are 75,305 active cases in Canada and a daily average of 6,675 new cases (December 17 to 23).

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