The first case of the COVID-19 UK variant has been reported in an individual from the Island Health region.
The individual, who resides on Vancouver Island, returned to BC from the United Kingdom on flight AC855 on December 15th.
They then developed symptoms while in quarantine, and were immediately tested.
Testing confirmed the positive diagnosis on December 19th; a small number of close contacts have been isolated, and public health is following up with them daily, according to a statement from the province.
In a joint statement on Sunday, Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix confirmed the first case of a person in British Columbia infected with the COVID-19 variant originally identified in the UK.
“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.,” read the statement.
”Whole genome sequencing at the BCCDC identified this as the same as the variant seen in the U.K. Ongoing review may identify additional cases in the coming days.”
A Canada-wide travel ban on all flights arriving from the U.K. remains in place until January 6th, 2021.
British Columbians are urged to continue to avoid all non-essential travel to keep people and communities safe.
At this point, 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.
However, early studies indicate the COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K. can spread more quickly and easily.