B.C. 'may consider further non-essential travel' due to COVID variant

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The B.C. Ministry of Health says it may consider imposing more restrictions to curb non-essential travel as Ontario reports its first two cases of the highly contagious U.K. strain of COVID-19.

On Boxing Day, health officials in Ontario said that the first two cases of a new variant of COVID-19 first seen in the U.K. had been found in the province.

In response, the B.C. Ministry of Health says it is monitoring the situation closely and may take action in the form of further travel restrictions.

“We will continue to do everything we can to keep people and communities safe and may consider further action to reduce non-essential travel as the situation evolves,” said a ministry spokesperson in an emailed statement to CTV News Vancouver.

“We are aware of the cases reported in Ontario and have been watching this closely, while reviewing all positive cases in B.C. travellers that potentially came from the U.K.,” continues the statement.

The recently-identified strain can spread “easier and faster,” according to health officials in Ontario, but there is no evidence to suggest that it is more likely to cause more severe illness, and experts have said the current vaccines are likely to protect against it.

Currently, people do not need to quarantine when they fly between Ontario and B.C.

B.C. health officials say that news of the confirmed cases in Ontario are one more reason for British Columbians to strengthen their resolve and reduce social interactions.

“The new strain only emphasizes the need for all of us to be vigilant and to follow the (the Provincial Health Officer’s) orders and guidance right now, especially as we are rolling out our immunization program for the most vulnerable people in B.C., including many frontline health care workers,” it reads.

Scientists in B.C. have been working to identify whether any cases of the new strain are present in B.C., but to date, none have been announced.

“Genetic analysis is being performed to identify if there have been previous or new cases associated with this variant,” reads the statement.

The variant has also been detected in other countries around the world, including Denmark, Japan, Israel and Sweden.

-- with files from CTV News --