Daniel Roberts photo
By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Richmond Sentinel
VICTORIA – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed concerns around a new variant of COVID-19 detected recently in the United Kingdom.
RNA viruses like COVID-19 are known to mutate, she said.
The variant found in the U. K. has as many as 17 mutations or changes to parts of the virus. So far the severity of the illness doesn’t seem to be increased, but the new variant does transmit more easily, said Henry. Temporary travel restrictions, announced yesterday, will stop flights from the U.K. to Canada so public health officials can establish protective measures to prevent the new mutation from spreading widely.
Henry also said the new mutation doesn’t seem to affect the ability of COVID-19 vaccines, or the ability of tests to pick up the virus.
She also announced 1,667 new cases of the virus in BC over the weekend: 652 from Friday to Saturday, 486 from Saturday to Sunday and a further 529 in the last 24 hours. Fourteen of the new cases are epidemiologically linked. There have been 47,067 cases in BC since the pandemic began.
Of the new cases, 283 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 1,084 in the Fraser Health region, 21 in the Island Health region, 189 in the Interior Health region and 90 in the Northern Health region.
There are 341 people in hospital, 80 of whom are in critical care. Both of these numbers are lower than last Friday’s statistics—as is the number of active cases, which has decreased by more than 250 to 9,718.
Across the province, there are at least 9,651 people under active public health monitoring. Due to a data transition in the Northern Health region, the real number is “probably slightly over” what has been reported.
Sadly, 41 people lost their lives over the weekend due to COVID-19, bringing BC’s total deaths from the virus to 765. Most of the new deaths were in longterm care. The healthcare sector is still overwhelmingly affected by the virus, with 61 active outbreaks of which 55 are in longterm care or assisted living facilities and six are in acute care facilities. These outbreaks are currently affecting 1,424 residents and 792 staff.
Last week, 3,644 people were vaccinated in BC, mostly healthcare workers. Today, vaccines have arrived in every health authority across the province.
Henry said BC is starting to see a levelling in the fight against COVID-19, but at a very high level. Transmission continues to happen, and although the number of people with close contact has decreased, “it is still a substantial number,” she said.
“If you are in doubt, err on the side of caution and choose to stay away right now.”
For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, risks and testing, visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/ or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter.