Will Delta variant upset B.C.'s progress? Health officials say province in better situation than U.K.
VANCOUVER -- Health officials are watching the Delta COVID-19 variant spreading in B.C. communities with concern, but could it threaten to upend the province's reopening plans?
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked about the variant, also known as B.1.617.2, on Monday after U.K. officials blamed the mutation for their decision to extend lockdown measures by another month.
A new study out of Scotland also found the Delta variant doubles the risk of hospitalization compared to the Alpha variant B.1.1.7, though the same research found vaccines provide strong protection against both.
Henry noted that B.C. has resumed the process of conducting whole genome sequencing on every case of COVID-19 to better monitor the spread of variants, and that the province's circumstances are different from those in the U.K.
"We have increased the level of protection from immunization across the board, so we are in a bit of a different place from the U.K.," she said. "A lot of transmission that they're seeing right now in the U.K. is in people in their teens and 20s and 30s. We have very high immunization rates in those age groups already."
The latest COVID-19 data summary posted last week by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control shows the province has partially vaccinated more than 30 per cent of residents who are between the ages of 12 and 19. More than half of British Columbians in their 20s and more than 60 per cent of those in their 30s have also received at least one dose.
In total, the province has provided first doses to about 76 per cent of adults as of Monday.
While the highly contagious Delta variant is poised to become the dominant strain in Ontario, Henry also noted that B.C. has not seen it "taking off" compared to any of the other mutations.
The BCCDC's latest variants of concern report shows only about seven per cent of COVID-19 cases sampled during the week ending on June 5 involved B.1.617.2. That's compared to 35 per cent of the B.1.17 variant and 36 per cent of the P.1, or Gamma variant.
"Obviously this is something we'll be watching carefully in the data in the next few weeks," Henry added.
Health officials are relaxing several more restrictions as B.C. enters the second stage of its restart plan on Tuesday, allowing residents to travel recreationally across the province and hold outdoor gatherings in groups of up to 50 people.
The third step is tentatively scheduled to begin on July 1, but Henry said that will depend on what impact the looser rules have on case numbers during the next two-week incubation period.