P.E.I. confirms two recent COVID-19 cases identified as U.K. variant; details on vaccine rollout plan

Prince Edward Island is reporting no new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and say two recent positive COVID-19 cases have been identified as the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer, says the variant cases were originally reported March 26 and were related to travel outside Atlantic Canada. The national microbiology lab revealed they were both the U.K. variant following routine further testing. 

Both individuals have been self-isolating, as required.

The province's top doctor says P.E.I. currently has eight active cases of COVID-19. To date, P.E.I. has confirmed 160 positive cases of the virus.

VACCINE UPDATE

As of Saturday, Prince Edward Island has administered 27,448 doses of vaccine to island residents.

Morrison says this week will be the province's largest week yet in regards to administering COVID-19 vaccines.

"Our plan is to administer a total of 7,200 doses this week, or an average of 1,200 per day over those six days of clinics," explained Morrisonduring Tuesday’s news update.

In addition, Morrison says home care facilities will also be administering doses of vaccines to individuals.

"As I mentioned, we need time to rollout our vaccine plan. There will be enough vaccine for everyone who is eligible and who wants a vaccine," said Morrison.

Beginning this week, individuals aged 60 to 64 in Prince Edward Island are eligible to begin booking their COVID-19 vaccine appointments based on the month that they were born.

  • Tuesday, April 6: individuals born in the months of January – June
  • Wednesday, April 7: individuals born in the months of July – September
  • Thursday, April 8: individuals born in the months of October - December

Only individuals identified during the current stage are able to register online or call to make an appointment for their immunization. Updates on other groups will be shared in the coming weeks.

Morrison says also beginning on Friday, individuals between the age 40 to 59 with underlying health conditions and any household members  are also able to start booking their vaccine appointments. 

On Thursday, April 15, vaccine bookings will open for the following groups:

  • Individuals who are age 18 to 39 with underlying medical conditions and any of their household members
  • Front line workers age 40 to 59 who interact with the public and cannot work virtually, including teachers, early childhood educators, school bus drivers, public transit drivers, telecommunications, food manufacturing and processing
  • And non-front line health care workers needed to maintain health care system capacity can book their appointments

P.E.I.'s top doctor says the province's goal is still to administer all Islanders with two doses of vaccine, adding they remain on track to complete this by the fall.

"One dose of vaccine provides good immunity and protection from illness and hospitalization, however it is only when we get our second dose and achieve a high level of immunization as a province that we will be best protected," said Morrison.

"Thank you to all Islanders who have already been vaccinated and to the many others who have booked your appointments," said Morrison. "The response from individuals and groups of Islanders to the opportunity to be immunized has been very positive and thank you all."

Morrison says the province is aiming to achieve herd protection by having 80 per cent of the province's eligible population immunized with two doses of vaccine.

"We will achieve herd protection one person at a time, one immunization at a time," said Morrison.

ASTRAZENECA VACCINE TO BE OFFERED TO THOSE OVER THE AGE OF 55

Beginning this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine will become available in 12 partnered pharmacies on Prince Edward Island for anyone over the age of 55.

"For instance, if someone wants the AstraZenea vaccine, they may be able to get an earlier appointment by booking at a pharmacy," explained Morrison. "Alternatively, they can wait to get an appointment at a public clinic where the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are being administered."

ATLANTIC BUBBLE UPDATE

Prince Edward Island's chief public health officer says she and her regional counterparts will advise premiers next week about reopening the Atlantic travel bubble.

Morrison says epidemiologists have been asked to provide up-to-date data on the situation in the region by Monday.

"Based on that information, next week, that will be discussed among the Atlantic chief medical health officers and then that information will go to our premiers," she told reporters Tuesday.

The Atlantic premiers have proposed reopening the bubble April 19, which would allow residents of the region to cross boundaries between the four provinces without having to isolate.

The recent rise in COVID-19 cases in parts of northern New Brunswick remains an area of concern, Morrison said. The Edmundston, N.B., area has the majority of the province's active reported cases and is under the red pandemic-alert level.

"We are going to see where we are within a week and give the best advice we can to our premiers," Morrison said.

COVID ALERT APP

Canada’s COVID-19 Alert app is available in Prince Edward Island.

The app, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play, notifies users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 SYMPTOMS

Prince Edward Island provides a list of possible COVID-19 symptoms on their website, which include:

  • new or worsening cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • fever/chills
  • sore throat
  • runny nose, sneezing, congestion
  • headache
  • muscle/joint/body aches
  • feeling unwell/unusual tiredness
  • acute loss of sense of smell or taste

Other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea have been reported, but typically along with other COVID-19 symptoms, and may be seen more often in children.

With files from The Canadian Press.