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Prevalence of Delta variant doubles in B.C. as feds warn unvaccinated of vulnerability

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The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is reporting that the troubling Delta variant has doubled in prevalence, despite overall COVID-19 cases falling. The news comes just as first-dose vaccinations begin to plateau, and federal health officials warn the unvaccinated are increasingly at risk.

Late Friday afternoon, the BCCDC published its “Weekly update on Variants of Concern (VOC).” In it, a chart shows that after a brief dip, the Delta variant has gone from six per cent of cases in British Columbia as of June 12, to 12 per cent as of June 19

“B.C. has transitioned to whole genome sequencing on all positive samples,” notes the report, which now shows 970 cases of the Delta variant, identified in labs as B.1.617.2, first discovered in India and rapidly spreading in several countries.

The B.1.1.7 Alpha variant, first identified in the U.K., sits at 48 per cent of cases in B.C., while the P.1 Gamma variant, first identified in Brazil, has dropped to 40 per cent.

The troubling statistics come on the same day Canada’s top doctor warned a pattern seen in other countries – of unvaccinated people becoming easily infected with the Delta variant and leading to increasing cases – could happen in our country as well.

“The experiences of other countries emphasize the need for continued caution as vaccine coverage increases,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, on Friday.

“As well, easing of measures must be controlled, gradual and responsive to potential shifts in disease activity until infection rates climb to low and manageable levels,” Tam said. “For example, the United Kingdom slowly and cautiously relaxed measures as infection rates declined and vaccine coverage expanded, yet experienced a recent resurgence fuelled by the emergence and spread of the Delta variant in younger, largely unvaccinated people.” 

Israel has just reinstituted its indoor mask mandate 10 days after lifting it as cases suddenly surge; the Delta variant and unvaccinated children are the key factors identified by officials there. 

Tam’s modelling presentation predicts that unless Canada surpasses 80 per cent of the overall population being vaccinated, the country could see a fourth wave into the fall and winter.

British Columbia now has 76.2 per cent of eligible people aged 12 and up vaccinated, but first doses have plateaued. While nearly all fully vaccinated people appear to have mild-to-nonexistent symptoms if infected by variants, unprotected people are highly susceptible to Delta, which is 1.5 times more infectious and twice as virulent as the Alpha variant. 

As of now, 3,530,063 British Columbians have had at least one shot. According to Statistics Canada, there were about 4,442,000 people over the age of 12 in the province in 2020, meaning nearly a million people who could be vaccinated against COVID-19 and its variants are currently unprotected. Top Stories

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