If COVID-19 variants become dominant in the community, health officials warn the result could be a "new pandemic."
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical health officer, provided her take after Ontario confirmed Monday that the Brazil variant has landed in Canada’s largest city.
“We are in a transition from one pandemic to another, in transition to a new pandemic," she said.
Asked if she agreed with that terminology, B.C.'s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry replied, "sadly, yes.”
Both doctors say the ease with which some of the variants of concern transmit is concerning.
“It does change the game in some ways, if it starts to take off and become dominant in the community,” said Henry.
B.C. has 40 cases where variants of concern are present. Twenty-five are of the U.K. variant, of which all but one are connected to travel or close contacts of travellers. Fifteen are of the South African variant, including four that are not connected to travel.
Henry added most of those infected with variants are younger, and no one has landed in hospital.
Two weeks ago, B.C. had eight variant cases in total.
Henry believes slowing travel and increasing quarantine rules and enforcement should help slow growth. She also added that’s why it’s important to reduce non-essential travel within the province.
Right now, only three of the variant cases are active.
A test to determine if the variant is present takes up to a week. That means some cases may be resolved before the troublesome mutation is even detected.
Health officials are also preparing for a study to determine how many variant cases may be out there. They will soon screen a full day’s worth of samples to determine whether the province is successfully weeding out cases or if there are "more out there that we're missing,” said Henry.
She encourages everyone to limit social interactions to their household, wear masks in public, and keep six feet of distance and also to wash their hands frequently. Henry said the rules aren’t changing, but people do need to take notice.