Number of COVID-19 variant cases identified in B.C. has doubled over the last week
VANCOUVER -- A total of 246 COVID-19 cases involving variants of concern have now been identified in British Columbia – more than double the province's tally from last week.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the latest 46 confirmed variant cases on Thursday, but noted that only 16 cases remain active across the province.
Henry added that four people are currently hospitalized with variant cases, and that two of the COVID-19 deaths announced in recent days were people with a variant. She did not specify which variant or variants they had.
Only 28 of B.C.'s cases have involved the B.1.351 variant associated with South Africa, while 218 have involved B.1.1.7, the variant first discovered in the U.K.
"The majority of these variants of concern continue to be in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions," Henry said, adding that there only been a small handful in the Island Health and Interior Health regions.
No cases have been detected in the province's Northern Health region yet.
Most of B.C.'s cases involving variants of concern have been found in travellers and close contacts of travellers, but Henry noted that officials still have not been able to determine a source of transmission in about 25 per cent of them.
Last week, health officials said they expected to see an increasing number of confirmed variant cases due to new technology that allows lab teams to detect them more easily.
Deputy provincial health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said B.C. used to test about 20 per cent of positive COVID-19 samples for variants using genome sequencing, but the less work-intensive method of screening has allowed the province to test about 70 per cent.
"Since this new screening technology will have been implemented throughout British Columbia, we may in fact see an increased number of identifications of variants," she said at a news conference on Feb. 22.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has stressed that the same measures used to reduce the spread of COVID-19 work against variants, including frequent hand-washing, physical distancing and mask-wearing.
According to the BCCDC website, "most" of the current vaccines have also been shown to be effective in preventing severe symptoms from COVID-19 in variant cases.
"Researchers have found that some vaccines may not work well for specific COVID-19 variants, such as B.1.351. Scientists are studying the relationship between current vaccines and the new variants of concern very closely," the site reads.