Warning of B.1.1.7 COVID variant as it emerges in more provinces


The variant that first emerged in Britain, B.1.1.7, is spreading its fingers across Canada, reaching two new provinces today — and emerging evidence suggests that this variant not only spreads faster, but could be transmitted during relatively brief encounters.

Saskatchewan confirmed Tuesday that two infections involve the B117 variant, while New Brunswick reported three cases of it.

There’s a growing fear across the country that it could lead to rapid outbreaks in senior’s homes and hospitals.

“It only takes one case to have those consequences,” Dr. Jennifer Russell, Chief Medical Officer of Health for New Brunswick, said.

“It is a really fast-moving strain. It infects people very, very quickly and in higher numbers. And when the strain gets in, for a population it'll be very difficult to get ahead of it and stay ahead of it with contact tracing and self-isolation as we have done in the past.”

Alberta also reported new cases of variant infections, which may have triggered an outbreak at a daycare. Two Calgary schools have also been placed in quarantine after two children were determined to have attended school while infectious.

In several of these cases, officials are saying travel is a key source.

The variant has also developed another mutation, called E484K, which makes it more likely to evade any immunity people have developed, either naturally or with vaccines.

“It is a really worrying mutation,” Dr. Ravi Gupta, with the University of Cambridge, said. “It's a variant that transmits faster, so this is a worrying development.”

It’s not the only variant causing concern. In the U.K., health officials are recommending aggressive testing of communities to control more contagious variants of the coronavirus after 11 cases of B 1.351, the variant that first emerged in South Africa, were found in one community.