Province’s first case of new COVID-19 variant is in Island Health region

Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News
British Columbia has reported its first case of the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 and it is within Island Health.


British Columbia has reported its first case of the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 and it is within Island Health.

The Ministry of Health says an individual residing in Island Health tested positive for the new variant of COVID-19 on Dec. 19 after returning from the United Kingdom a few days earlier.

“It is important to note there is no evidence that the new COVID-19 variant is more likely to cause severe illness, nor is there evidence to suggest the Health Canada-approved vaccines will be any less effective against the new variant,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement released on Dec. 27.

The individual was onboard Air Canada flight AC 855 — which arrived at Vancouver International Airport from London on Dec. 15 — and developed symptoms while in quarantine.

A positive test for the variant was returned on Dec. 19, according to the ministry.

“The variant strain was detected by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) Public Health Laboratory in its review of all isolates from people who had recently returned from travel to the U.K. Whole genome sequencing at the BCCDC identified this as the same as the variant seen in the U.K.,” the ministry said.

Three flights from the United Kingdom that landed in B.C. have since been added to the province’s COVID-19 exposure list since early December, with the most recent flight being on Dec. 19.

The health ministry says it is likely that more cases of the new variant will be identified in the coming days, noting that the individual’s close contacts have been notified.

“A small number of close contacts have been isolated and public health is following up with them daily,” the ministry said.

It is unclear how the individual got to Vancouver Island — whether it was by air, BC Ferries or some other means — because the ministry did not disclose that information on Sunday.

CHEK has reached out to the Ministry of Health and Island Health seeking additional information regarding the new case. However, the Ministry of Health and Island Health did not respond or answer questions submitted to them.

B.C. is not the first province in Canada to report a case of the new variant.

Ontario reported Canada’s first two known cases of the virus on Saturday in Durham Region, just east of Toronto.

A recently introduced Canada-wide travel ban on all flights arriving from the U.K.  is in place until Jan. 6, 2021.

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With files from The Canadian Press

Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod

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